Malak Malak rangers and researchers from Charles Darwin University have rescued 39 largetooth sawfish pups in the Northern Territory in a muddy mission that has been a boost to the critically endangered species.
The rangers and researchers spent five days in mud removing the sawfish by hand from a dried-out nursery near the Daly River in Darwin and releasing them into the river.
The rangers discovered the sawfish trapped in a small waterhole in a channel off Tyumalagun, about an hour’s drive from the Naiuyu community.
“The core area where the sawfish were found was a muddy hole with water only 10-20cm deep,” CDU senior research fellow Peter Kyne said.
“In total we caught 39 pups in the waterhole; one died in transit. We also found 16 that had already died in another area.”
Dr Kyne said the rescue was a “significant boost” for the critically endangered species, which is thought to be extinct in almost 30 countries, with northern Australia and Papua New Guinea being the last major population strongholds anywhere in the world.
He said Malak Malak rangers patrolled for trapped sawfish as water levels receded at the end of each dry season. They had used a purpose-built fish tank on the back of a ute to help relocate them to the river.
The rescued fish were all aged under 12 months and were tagged for future monitoring and tissue samples were taken for genetic studies.