West African Sawfishes: A window into their Lost World
Ruth Leeney speaks to Nigel Downing about his in-depth research on live sawfishes in West Africa in 1974 and 1975. Nigel’s project came to an abrupt end after only 18 months when funding was withdrawn and he subsequently switched to laboratory-based research to complete his PhD. Forty years later he and Ruth worked together to resurrect some of the data he had so painstakingly collected in the Gambia and Senegal. No stranger to the region, Ruth herself had spent much time there searching for the now-elusive ‘river monsters’. Nigel’s data brought to life a West Africa unknown to her, where rivers teemed with juvenile sawfishes. His stories give an inkling of what has been lost: thriving populations of these unique fishes that were probably observed year in, year out by communities along coasts and rivers at that time.