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Australia How a rescue program led by researchers and rangers is saving critically endangered sawfish in the Top End

01:41  19 september  2021
01:41  19 september  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Critically endangered sawfish could be at risk from dams or major water diversions on Western Australia's Fitzroy River, a 17-year study has concluded. Key points: Adult sawfish live in the sea but use rivers as a nursery for young up to six years of age. A 17-year study of the critically endangered animals found reproduction dependent on the highest river flows. The Kimberley's Fitzroy River is under renewed pressure for water allocations for irrigated farming. Researchers have called for its habitat to be protected, amid plans to harness water for agriculture. In a recently published paper, a team from

The project included OSU's Dan Roby and Don Lyons and was led by Chen Shuihua of the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History. Oregon State University. " Saving critically endangered seabird." ScienceDaily. Growing Numbers of Critically Endangered Sawfish in Miami Waters. 28, 2016 — Researchers used novel approach with historic film to discover just how endangered Kemp’s ridley

Bumping along a dried-up floodplain, there's a strange splashing noise coming from the back of the four-wheel drive.

Inside a tank are five largetooth sawfish on a life-saving journey – the billabong they have just been rescued from will heat up and evaporate in weeks.

Since 2012, a group of Indigenous rangers and a researcher have saved more than 70 sawfish through rescue missions in the Daly River region, south of Darwin.

"They're an absolutely unique animal, you know, half-ray, half-shark, half-chainsaw kind of thing," Dr Peter Kyne said.

"We're really fortunate in Australia and on Malak Malak country, that this is one of the key areas left now [for their habitat]."

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West Australian scientists working to save a prehistoric fish from extinction turn to the latest fitness They are about to attach a custom-made fitness tracker to five critically endangered sawfish , of Researchers prepare to release a sawfish in the Kimberley's Fitzroy River. (Supplied: Karissa Lear. Karissa Lear has partnered with Indigenous rangers to study the Fitzroy River's endangered sawfish .

The freshwater sawfish (Pristis pristis) was recently listed as the most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) animal. The Fitzroy River in the remote Kimberley region of north-western Australia represents a significant stronghold for the species, which uses the freshwater reaches of the river as a nursery. There is also mounting pressure to develop the water resources of the region for agriculture that may substantially affect life history dynamics of sawfish in this system. However, the relationship between hydrology and population dynamics of freshwater sawfish was unknown.

Catching an animal with rows of teeth protruding from its head may seem like a tough task.

But Dr Kyne and ranger Amos Shields easily find them in shallow water near the mangroves, catching some by hand and others with a net.

Then it is a race back to the car to tag them before placing them in a tank.

Less than an hour's drive later, it is time for their release into the Daly River.

The sawfish will live here among the crocodiles and bull sharks until the age of five, when they migrate to the ocean.

Rescue program celebrates 10 years

The sawfish rescue program is believed to be the only one of its kind in the world, and is run by the Northern Land Council's Malak Malak ranger group and Charles Darwin University, with support from the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

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Researchers say a perfect storm of factors caused the death of more than 40 critically endangered sawfish on a WA cattle station owned by businesswoman Gina Rinehart. Key points Associate Professor, David Morgan, from Murdoch University led a rescue mission to try to save the fish, but when the team reached the isolated floodplain in Western Australia's Kimberley region only two of the fish were still alive. He said the fish kill was the biggest he had seen in 18 years of monitoring and tagging the fish in the Fitzroy River system, which is regarded as the world's last stronghold for the

Sawfish were once common around Australia's coastline, but now they are so elusive that no-one really knows how many are left. Key points: In the past, Australia has been home to four of the world's five sawfish species. However numbers are declining and scientists are trying to determine why. They are now among the world's most- endangered fishes, and researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast are trying to determine their numbers amid fears the strange-looking creatures are nearing extinction.

It began when ranger Amos Shields noticed the animals were stranded at a particular billabong, which connects to the Daly River during part of the year.

"We went fishing and we would find them in the waterhole and then we took a couple of photos," Mr Shields said.

"We came back, went back to the ranger office and called Pete [Kyne]."

Dr Kyne said the stranding event was a natural process, but with the animal largely disappearing in the wild, there was a desperate need to save them.

"Given the critically endangered status of the species, this is the helping hand it needs now … with all the threats it's facing from fishing activities, water extraction, from loss of habitat," he said.

"This species used to occur around the tropical parts of the world, [there were] around 90 countries it ranged in.

"Northern Australia is now the last stronghold."

The largetooth sawfish is listed as vulnerable by the Australian Government, but the International Union for Conservation of Nature has marked them as critically endangered.

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Lead researcher Dr. Karissa Lear said the project revealed sawfish were considerably healthier in years with greater wet season river flows, allowing them to build a higher resilience to the long dry seasons that follow. Our data may be crucial to help inform the water resource management of the river, so that the population of sawfish in the Fitzroy, and the ecosystem as a whole, can be protected." Sawfish are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

An endangered smalltooth sawfish is free of marine debris today after help from two park rangers in Biscayne Bay National Park. The sawfish , found near Elliott Key on November 23rd, was entangled in a large pile of lobster trap line. Two park rangers were dispatched to the scene after park visitors NOAA Fisheries applauds the park rangers for freeing the entangled sawfish while keeping the animal in the water, minimizing any handling, and maintaining a safe distance. NOAA reminds people that sawfish are endangered and protected by law. Remember the three points of sawfish conservation

Signs near the Daly River remind fishers the animal is protected and, if caught, they must be returned to the water in good condition.

But photographs and location notes are welcome, to help authorities understand more about the population – as it is not known how many are left in the Daly River.

Peter Van Wyk from the Northern Land Council said the rescues would continue well into the future and were a positive aspect of the rangers' work, which otherwise involves removing feral animals.

"Here we are with an endangered species, we can help preserve its longevity into the future and it's great," he said.

"I remember the first time I ever saw one in the wild, I was really blown out, just like 'oh wow what a crazy looking creature'.

"I've seen a three-metre one and that was impressive, but you see in old photographs these enormous examples, so let's hope there's still some out there."

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