Malak Malak and Yugul Mangi Rangers sawfish surveys

Date: Sep 27, 2017

Publication Type: Newsroom

Subject: Caring for Country

The Largetooth Sawfish (scientific name Pristis pristis, known locally as Tyemerirriny) can be found in the freshwater section of a number of big rivers in northern Australia.

Malak Malak and Yugul Mangi Rangers with NAILSMA's Chrissie Davies and researcher Peter Kyne.

As a result, it is known as the Freshwater Sawfish (noting that mature sawfish live in the ocean). It used to be found in many regions across the world, but has disappeared from many of these, and scientists have found that northern Australia is one of the last places where there are healthy numbers. 

Malak Malak Traditional Owners, when working with researchers, heard there were only a few Largetooth Sawfish are left in the world. Elders already knew that sometimes they got trapped in waterholes on the Daly River floodplain, and in late 2012 when Traditional Owners found some trapped they called scientists from Charles Darwin University (CDU) and the Northern Australia Environmental Research Hub to organise a rescue. 

This worked very well and afterwards the rangers decided that it would be good to do patrols (and relocations) every year, as part of the Malak Malak community’s contribution to protecting the sawfish for future generations. 

The Yugul Mangi Rangers from Ngukurr have also been working with scientists who are tracking the movement of barramundi in the Roper River with acoustic receivers installed throughout the river. Because this technology can also be used to track sawfish, in late 2016 the Malak Malak Rangers travelled to work with the Numbulwar Numburindi and Yugul Mangi Rangers, NAILSMA and CDU at a number of sites along the Roper River and its tributaries. Although no sawfish were captured this year, there was a valuable exchange of scientific, technical and cultural knowledge and this work will continue.