Saturday, July 15, 2006

Richard's thoughts after ten days...

The habitat of Armitage's skink
Day 10, 13th July

I was interviewed by a man from BBC World Service Africa. He asked all the usual questions: why are you here? What is Ninki-Nanka? Have you seen it? He also said that some listeners might think it was just an excuse for a holiday. I explained that our group counted among it a zoologist, an archaeologist, a biologist, an ecologist, and even an astrophysicist.

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.

Hunting for the skink

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.


Blogger dom said...

I read about you on the BBC ( and blogged about the hunt for Ninki-nanka) Good luck and MORE pics pleasee ! They're great :)

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello CTZ Team,
I am happy with the news that I heard over the BBC of the recent search of the Ninki Naka!!!

I am a Gambian and the news of Ninki Nanka wasn't new to me because I grow up in rural Gambia in North Bank Division where I can say it is a center of this folklore.

I remember when I was young, this are stories that are repeated to me and others days after days. We strongly belief to its present as I believe to the existence of hell and heaven!! due to the magnitude we are told.

I definitely suggest for the team to explore Kerewan in North Bank Division and the surrounding water-way along the "Miniminiyang Bolong" down to Nuimi and ask older generation about this creature. I am certain you will be able to come across potential people who can give some information, but the clarity might be in question.

As kids grow up in this imaginary dragon-wave, we are mostly terrified of exploring our eco-system because of the fear of seeing this so called dragon!!! When we go out to fetch firewood from the mangroves, we are scared to death if we heard strange noise in the mangroves. Many are so phonic to noise when we are in mangroves and even going out for hunting!!!

I also suggest to your team to follow the story pattern of this myth dragon. By following the creek way of River Gambia especially the villages along the Bolongs to find facts. The stories you may find in city or Kombo with regards to this creature will not be accurate, but villages account to this information for some reason can give you more insight.

Also it can be helpful if you can make a radio announcement with Radio Gambia and ask for volunteers to contact your or any local representative from the 5 Division to help you with information regarding this folklore. Even if you set a small monetary tag for volunteers will help your team to gather facts.

Let me know if you may need any other suggestion or information. I admire the fact that Gambian has this fantasy animal or story. After the release of King Kong that hits the black buster movie. I was imagining to myself will it be possible to find partners that can put together a story line about this fantasy. So these days I heard about CTZ. Bravo for your teams’ commitment to come to the Gambia to follow the authenticity of this ANIMAL.


M. H

11:37 PM  

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