Rangers save 40 endangered sawfish pups from dry waterhole

By AG Staff September 22, 2017
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The rescued pups are a much needed boost to the largetooth sawfish populations.

A GROUP of Indigenous rangers and researchers from Charles Darwin University (CDU) have rescued 40 largetooth sawfish pups (Pristis pristis) — presumed to be extinct in 30 different countries — after their nursery located near the Daly River in Darwin began drying up.  

The rescue mission is a part of much larger project titled, Northern Australian hotspots for the recovery of threatened euryhaline species, which enlists Malak Malak Rangers to patrol areas of the Top End where low water levels have dramatic impacts on wildlife.

The Malak Malak Rangers located the sawfish in a muddy hole that was only 10 to 20 cm deep and were able to rescue 39 pups; one of the rescued pups died in transit. Not far from where the rescue mission took place, rangers found another 16 pups that had died.

Peter Kyne, a Senior Researcher from CDU said that the recent rescue mission will give a vital boost to population sizes that are routinely depleted by local fishing activities and habitat loss and degradation.

In other parts of the world, the endangered largetooth sawfish are hunted for their saw-like snout, which is considered a valuable item.

Their large snout, lined with razor sharp points, is also why they often become tangled and trapped in fishing nets. 

Barbara Wueringer, the founder and director of Sharks and Rays Australia told Australian Geographic that this highlighted the countless issues facing largetooth sawfish.

“The fact that so many sawfish pups were found in such an unfortunate location shows that sawfish face many pressures in addition to anthropogenic ones. When the species was still present in large numbers this effort wouldn’t have been necessary but nowadays efforts like this might make all the difference. 

This case also illustrates a successful collaboration between scientists and Indigenous Rangers, which increases the impact for both groups.”