Richard's thoughts after ten days...
Later that day we travelled down to Gunjur Beach. Luke had told us that a couple of Rastafarian men who owned a beach bar had provided him with two specimens of Armitage's skink. After traversing a foul smelling fish market we came upon the bar. It was a tumbled down wooden shanty, festooned with wind chimes created from sea shells. They jangled eerily. The owner was a friendly guy. We ordered a round of soft drinks and then asked him about the skink. He confirmed that he had caught two in his toilet and passed them on to Luke at the Gambian Reptile Park. He described them as around 10 inches long, as thick as his finger and sandy brown with a black stripe.
We asked him about Ninki-Nanka and he said that it was an animal so powerful that those who saw it died. He had known people who had seen it but they were 'no longer conscious'.
We walked along the beach towards the grassy dunes that Luke had told us were the skink's habitat. A local beach bum and his dog started to follow us quite unbidden. He trailed round after us where ever we went. Suzi asked him to leave and he ignored her. I asked him why he was following us and he said he wanted to 'help us' (i.e. get some money off us) We told him we were scientists looking for lizards and that his dog was scaring them away. Finally he left.
We searched the dunes as the temperature became cooler but found nothing. We began to walk back along them, looking for a suitable area to sit quietly as the sun set and watch for the skinks. Unfortunately the pestering beach bum reappeared (this time sans dog) and proceeded to attach himself to our group. He claimed to have seen a snake beside the road 4 years previously, but he said it was green.
At this point it may be useful to look back on the descriptions of Ninki-Nanka that we have received:
Baka Samba, Mr Fixit, whose uncle saw the dragon: Huge and terrible, has fire in the mouth.
Musa Jatta, guide at Abuko: It is like a huge python. It is big enough to swallow a whole cow. It has legs, and wings like a bat's. It breathes fire.
Hassan Jinda, grandson of victim Papa Jinda: It is unimaginably big. If you see the front of it you cannot see the end. It has a crown of fire on its head. Male and female have different crowns. Its scales glitter.
Dodgy fishmarket guy 1: It is like a snake, but it can grow as big as a palm tree. Its scales are like mirrors and you can see yourself in them. When it grows big it goes into the sea.
Dodgy Fishmarket guy 2: It has a snake like body and a face like a kangaroo. It has a forked tongue.
Momomudu park ranger at Kiang West, and so far our only first hand witness: It has a face like a horse. A feather like crest falls down over its face. Its scales are reflective like mirrors, mainly black and green. 50 meters long by 1 meter wide. Snake like body.
None of the descriptions match up. Crests, reflective scales and a snaky body do seem to be constants, as does the idea of seeing a Ninki-Nanka leading to death. I am considerably less convinced of the existence of this creature than other beasts I have hunted such as the Naga, Orang-Pendek, and the Mongolian Deathworm.