Thursday, June 29, 2006

Why Oll wants to go to the Gambia

I’ve been fascinated by tales of giant semi-aquatic lizards in Sub-Saharan and central Africa since I was a boy and to be able to look for one, and maybe even find evidence it exists is an opportunity not to be missed. As an ecologist I also hope to investigate the local flora and fauna in an attempt to find out whether the area can possibly support a large unknown animal.

In order to monitor the fish population I will be performing mark-recapture tests using a net. The fish caught in the first catch will be marked and a week later the nets will be used again in the same place. The proportion of fish recaptured from the first catch in the second catch should, once fed into a formula, give a reasonable estimate of population size. This should give some idea whether the area could support a large predator that feeds on fish. It doesn’t necessary follow that that predator is the Ninki-Nanka but it is important to monitor such things to improve our chances of finding the creature if it exists. It is also important to find out as much as possible about an area where a crypid is said to lurk as, should the creature be discovered, it would give a head start to attempts to understand the species and knowledge gained can be applied to claims of similar creatures.

I am also interested to find out the identity of ‘Gambo’ the beast of bungalow beach. Ever since the story of its discovery and burial was first reported, theories have sprung up to explain what it may be ranging from the sensible and prosaic through to the strange and wondrous. Should we find and unearth the carcass of Gambo, said by the time it was washed up on the beach to resemble a pliosaur, then finally there will be a concrete answer as to it’s identity. My own opinion is that it was possibly a beaked whale, but that opinion could change when we get a look at the carcass. We know less about the oceans than we do about the moon so it is possible an unknown animal might have washed up on a Gambian beach in the 1980s and it will be interesting to find out if Gambo was a rarely seen species or maybe something completely new to science. Strange new species do turn up from time to time in our oceans, the most famous example in recent times being the coelacanth which first turned up in a South African fish market in 1938 but had previously been thought to be extinct for several million years.


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