Several years ago, I was in a doctor’s office in Los Angeles waiting for an appointment. As I sat there, my attention was drawn to an abstract painting on the wall, a wash of grey, white and orange. A lady also sitting waiting commented, “Doesn’t it remind you of koi carp?” To be truthful, I hadn’t made the connection myself, but the colours were reminiscent of a pond full of koi. I happen to work near a large koi pond and had some photographs of it on my mobile phone, so I showed them to her. It was then that she began to relate an unusual story.
One night during the heavy rains of the El Nino storm, she was out walking her dog when she saw a number of crows pecking at something in the middle of the road. As she got closer, she noticed that it was a large fish and that it was still alive, thrashing and flipping on the road, trying to avoid the birds’ beaks. She ran up and shooed them away, leaving the fish, now seen to be a koi carp, lying in the road.
Not knowing what else to do, she picked up the fish and carried it to the pavement. How could an ornamental carp end up in the middle of a street in Los Angeles? It must have somehow washed out of someone’s pond when the rain was at its heaviest. However, there was no way of telling which house it had come from. She knocked on the nearest door and explained to the surprised homeowner that she had just found a fish in the middle of the road, and asked could she borrow a bucket of water to carry it home in. Soon she was walking home with her dog lead in one hand and the fish in a bucket of water in the other.
For the next few days the fish lived in a large plastic tub in the lady’s house while she tried to figure out what to do with it. Obviously she didn’t know who it belonged to, and putting a classified ad in the LA Times asking if anyone had lost a fish was a long shot to say the least. In the end, she decided to do some research and see if there was anywhere that had a koi pond and could take in a homeless carp.
After a bit of calling around, she found a museum in Pasadena that had a big koi pond in its grounds, and they agreed to give the fish a new home. She transferred the fish back into its travel bucket and stowed it securely in her car. Arriving at the museum, she asked to see the groundskeeper and presented him with the bucket. They then walked together to the edge of the pond and he carefully deposited the fish into the water. At first, it just swam around in small circles, as if uncertain of its new surroundings, but then a very curious thing happened.
All of the fish that lived in the pond began to swim up towards the edge, forming a large semi-circle around the new arrival. Then, the largest of the fish detached itself from the group and came right up to the newly introduced fish, as though giving it a close inspection. It then swam slowly around the semi-circle with the new fish in tow, as though introducing it to the rest of the group. With this action complete, all of the fish including the new arrival swam off together to the centre of the pond. The lady had found the koi carp a new home.
I have no personal experience of ever seeing fish behave quite like this; equally I have seen enough strange things in nature to believe this lady’s charming fish story.
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