17 July 2013 3 of 8


PAPUA NEW GUINEA (Central Province)

 


PAPUA NEW GUINEA SNAKEBITE PROJECT
KEELBACK KORNER

I took the keelback from him and bagged it, walking back to GPS the capture locality and then moving up stream again, but then Owen called me back to see yet another dead Blue-tailed monitor lizard, this one without a head, lying in the shallows. But as I moved towards Owen he saw something else up on the bank which was even more exciting. He told me it was another monitor lizard but a strange one, without the pointed head of most other varanids, more a stocky, short, squarish head, and the tail was disproportionately long for the head and body. He estimated an SVL of around 60cm with his hands and a tail of maybe 1.0m so a 1.6m lizard. I was elated, he had just described a juvenile Salvador's monitor lizard (Varanus salvadorii), also known as Artrellia, the tree monitor or croc monitor, a species I have sought, unsuccessfully, on two occasions in Western Province, including on OBA film. But the bush was dense, the trees tall and that was the last we saw of the lizard. It will be documented as an unconfirmed record, but once again we were distracted as yet another dark-banded Barred keelback swam almost between Owen's legs and into the jaws of his M1 tongs. Still keeping count (captures and missed snakes) ?

Second dead Blue-tailed monitor lizard
Varanus doreanus
Horsehair worm
Chordodes sp.

I christened this bend in the river "Keelback Korner" and a little further on I found a Horsehair worm (Chordodes sp.) the curious free-living larval stage of a locust and grass-hopper parasite.

Further up stream and yet another orange-phase Barred keelback was met with and captured in the river, the series so far ranging from unicolour brown to a diverse array of coloured bands.

Soon after this keelback was captured we reached another bend in the river where a creek would enter in the wet season, the now dry creek bed being good for snakes according to Owen, they had captured New Guinea small-eyed snake (Micropechis ikaheka) and Smooth-scaled death adder (Acanthophis laevis) here on previous visits. Sea boots off, Rockies on, and off we set up the dry creek bed, which was annoyingly alive with mosquitos, the black and yellow sweat bees walking all over my arms tickling I can accept, and they were in abundance, but the day-biting Aedes mosquitos carry dengue fever and worse, so we slapped on plenty of Aerogard.

Dry creek habitat


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