Malapterurus electricus 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Siluriformes Malapteruridae

Scientific Name: Malapterurus electricus
Species Authority: (Gmelin, 1789)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English African Electric Catfish
Malapterurus electricus Lacépède, 1803
Silurus electricus Gmelin, 1789

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-05-01
Assessor(s): Azeroual, A., Entsua-Mensah, M., Getahun, A., Lalèyè, P. & Kazembe, J.
Reviewer(s): Snoeks, J., Tweddle, D., Getahun, A., Lalèyè, P., Paugy, D., Zaiss, R., Fishar, M.R.A & Brooks, E.
This species has a wide distribution, with no known major widespread threats. It is therefore listed as Least Concern. It has also been assessed regionally as Least Concern for eastern, north eastern and western Africa. In north Africa, it is now rare in Upper and Lower Egyptian Nile. The species requires fast flowing water, a habitat which has been severely impacted by the Aswan High Dam. The species EOO is over 20,000 km2 but the AOO is less than 2,000 km2 and found in fewer than 10 locations based on the impacts from the Aswan High Dam. The species is also threatened by pollution of the Egyptian Nile and increasing salinity in the Delta area. It is therefore regionally assessed as Vulnerable.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Malapterurus electricus is widely distributed, from Senegal (and possible Mauritania) to Ethiopia, and along the entire length of the Nile from Egypt to Rwanda and the Great Lakes south to Malawi.

Eastern Africa: It occurs in Lake Tanganyika and lower parts of major affluents, including the Malagarasi and Rusizi, as well as the entire Nile system, and lakes Albert and Turkana. In Malawi it is also present in Lower Shire River.

Northern Africa: It is present but rare in Lower and This species is known from upper Egyptian Nile.

Northeast Africa: This species is found in the Ghazal and Jebel systems, and Lake Nasser (also known as Lake Nubia), Sudan. It is present in the Blue Nile and Baro Rivers, Ethiopia.

Western Africa: It has a typical Sudanian distribution, occurring in the Lake Chad and Senegal basin, throughout the Niger system as well as smaller southward flowing basins in West Africa (Bandama through the Volta rivers).
Countries occurrence:
Benin; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Egypt; Ethiopia; Ghana; Guinea; Malawi; Mali; Niger; Nigeria; Senegal; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Uganda; Zambia
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:No population estimates available.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It lives in shallow water, with muddy or sandy bottom neighbouring rocky areas, and favours sluggish or standing water (Skelton 1993). This species is active at night, feeding mainly on fish stunned by electric shocks. The electric organ, capable of generating 300-400 volts, forms a sheath under the skin around the body, and is used for both prey capture and defence (Skelton 1993). Forms pairs and breeds in excavated cavities or holes (Skelton 1993).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: It is marketable when caught but of minor commercial importance (Bishai and Khalil 1997)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is threatened by overfishing in eastern Africa. In northern Africa, dams, water pollution (agriculture, domestic and commercial/industrial), groundwater extraction and drought pose possible threats.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: None known. More research is needed into this species population numbers and range, biology and ecology, habitat status and threats, as well as monitoring and potential conservation measures. Habitat conservation is required, as well as the establishment of protected areas within this species home range.

Classifications [top]

5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.1. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls)
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.2. Wetlands (inland) - Seasonal/Intermittent/Irregular Rivers/Streams/Creeks
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.5. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Freshwater Lakes (over 8ha)
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.6. Wetlands (inland) - Seasonal/Intermittent Freshwater Lakes (over 8ha)
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.13. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Inland Deltas
15. Artificial/Aquatic & Marine -> 15.1. Artificial/Aquatic - Water Storage Areas (over 8ha)
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.2. Droughts
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.1. Intentional use: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.2. Dams & water management/use -> 7.2.11. Dams (size unknown)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.2. Dams & water management/use -> 7.2.8. Abstraction of ground water (unknown use)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

9. Pollution -> 9.1. Domestic & urban waste water -> 9.1.3. Type Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

9. Pollution -> 9.2. Industrial & military effluents -> 9.2.3. Type Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

9. Pollution -> 9.3. Agricultural & forestry effluents -> 9.3.4. Type Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Pan-Africa freshwater assessment references. Currently, full citations for references used in the Pan-Africa biodiversity assessments are unavailable on the Red List web site. These will be added to the site in 2011. We apologise for any inconvenience this causes.

IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2010.3). Available at: (Accessed: 2 September 2010).

Citation: Azeroual, A., Entsua-Mensah, M., Getahun, A., Lalèyè, P. & Kazembe, J. 2010. Malapterurus electricus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T182850A7985142. . Downloaded on 23 October 2016.
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