Photo Credit: Armelle JUng

Tuning into Sawfish Conservation West African Style


Most people love a good story, reasons Armelle Jung, the AfricaSaw Project Coordinator with Des Requins et Des Hommes (DRDH), working in Western Africa to save sawfishes from entanglement in fishing lines.

Entangled sawfish
Credits : DRDH

“So we decided to weave one about Sawfish conservation into the daily life of a Senegalese fisher family”, she explains. In addition to direct engagement and information materials the project team wanted to scale up awareness raising. "Live theatre and role play work too but we wanted to reach a wider multicultural audience cost-effectively". A radio play was the ideal solution because it could incorporate several messages into one familiar story – a grandfather exchanging fishing knowledge with his grandson.

The 3-minute play was produced with local artist group Busana Casa and ZIG FM in Ziguinchore – the capital of Casamance in southern Senegal. It was recorded in three different language versions – Wolof, French and English to target different ethnic communities in highlighting the ban on sawfish capture while advertising a hotline for reporting incidental captures. You can listen to the French language version below:

This SOS funded project team is working to mitigate the threats on Sawfish in Western Africa and to bring knowledge and tools to the fishermen involved in the Sawfish’s conservation. Part of this is determining and evaluating key areas for Sawfish populations.

In the most critical places, a trained “Sawfish Alert Network” regularly collects and provides data on animal by-catch either sighted or sold in those areas via a telephone hotline. Consequently, fisher awareness of the ban and the hotline is critical to reducing direct and indirect sawfish mortality, minimizing human interactions and improving general conservation knowledge as well.

Comparing awareness levels about the ban on Sawfish capture among villagers before and after the broadcast, the project’s local focal point Salatou Sambou has seen a significant impact: “it jumped from 20% to 90%!”, he remarks.

As for the Sawfish Alert Network, Salatou confirms he is receiving a lot more phone call and SMS messages since the broadcast. “More and more people are asking for information and not just fishers, but people all around Casamance. That is good news for the campaign”.

Their distinctive toothed rostra help Sawfish feed, but have been central to their downfall - fishing nets entangle the toothy rostra all too easily. Such incidental capture in trawls and gillnets are the primary threat to Sawfish today. Captured specimens are often retained because of their valuable fins and rostra. Hence the importance of effective outreach such as these radio plays.

Protecting threatened species is critical for all our lives. Wildlife and nature supply us with so many basic necessities from food to fuel and shelter, but also inspiration in art, language and design to name but a few examples.

This news is just one example from one of 90 projects that are each delivering conservation results thanks to the SOS model - supporting good projects implemented by existing conservation actors.

Right now we are protecting more than 230 species please contribute to SOS to help us continue to protect more of our natural heritage by donating here.

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