28 JANUARY 2011 1 of 1


SUAI, COVALIMA DISTRICT, TIMOR-LESTE

 


TIMOR-LESTE REPTILE & AMPHIBIAN SURVEY
PHASE IV: IT'S NOT ALL FIELDWORK

We had planned another field collecting excursion into the Tilomar Forest Reserve with Casimiro Mendes but we had such a backlog of specimens to work up, photograph and prep that we decided we should spend most of the day at the hotel rather than chasing more specimens in the jungle.

This is the necessary part of serious fieldwork that is often overlooked by casual enthusiasts going into the field to look for reptiles. All captured specimens are examined closely with representative individuals selected for photography. It is also necessary to select 'voucher specimens' to be deposited in the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington D.C., as permanent records of the herpetofauna of Timor-Leste, and the method by which they are euthanised and preserved is based on very strict animal care and collection procedures. It is sad to have to dispatch specimens but for a species to be conserved it is necessary for it to bear a scientific name, and for that to happen it must be 'described'—and for that to happen there must be named specimens in a museum. Liver samples are also taken from voucher specimens for DNA bar-coding and other molecular research. All other specimens are released back where they were captured, and any CITES species are also usually released, the expedition preferring to obtain skin snips for DNA and 'fix' fresh road-kills.

With so much work to be done the morning flew past, then in the afternoon we went out to an area Hinrich had recce'd where we filmed a number of short 'piece to camera' video clips with various specimens including the Reticulated python (Broghammerus reticulatus) which was then released just before the heavens opened.

In the evening Hinrich and his 'lab team' completed the specimen prepping while I took Robert, Scott, Kyle and David out to some rice paddies to search for Dog-faced watersnakes (Cerberus rynchops), which we had found in similar habitats on the north coast. In the event we captured only Rice-paddy frogs (Fejervarya sp.), selecting three male individuals for the collection and releasing the remainder back into the rice-paddy.

Rice-paddy frog
Fejervarya sp.