25 January 2012 1 of 1




Some months ago one of the Jets, Laca, sent Hinrich and myself a photograph of a snake he had captured in the mangrove swamps at Metinaro, an hour east of Dili. I could immediately recognise it as a Little filesnake (Acrochordus granulatus), one of only three species of filesnakes in the genus Acrochordus, the sole genus of the family Acrochordidae, a unique family of marine and freshwater snakes. The species is recorded for Timor but had not been recorded by our team previously. Hinrich and I decided our initial field outing in Timor-Leste on Phase VI would be to the Metinaro mangrove swamp rather than our usual venue on the Comoro River.

We drove to Metinaro and spread out across the mangrove swamp, squelching through glutinous mud and clambering over tangled roots and debris. During the day I suggested we search the mud lobster burrows for snakes as this was where I found the Crab-eating mangrove snake (Fordonia leucobalia) in Papua New Guinea. Despite 14 people searching extensively we were only finding occasional house geckos and fiddler crabs. We were about finished and were washing off mud when Caitlin called. She had found a snake and by the time I reached her Laca had dug it out of the mud lobster burrow where she had seen it. This was a nice find, a Crab-eating mangrove snake, not only our first specimen from Timor but also a first country record for the species, a good way to initiate the fieldwork on Phase VI.

Dense twisted mangroves and sticky mud The incoming tide
Mud lobster burrow, down which crab-eating mangrove snakes spend the day
Crab-eating mangrove snake,
Fordonia leucobalia