31 January 2012 1 of 1


ATAÚRO IS., DILI DISTRICT, TIMOR-LESTE

 


TIMOR-LESTE REPTILE & AMPHIBIAN SURVEY
PHASE VI: FIRST RAIN

A team went out to check the monitor traps and came back with one of them demolished. Something had entered the trap, eaten the chicken piece and exited through the side, parting the chicken-wire mesh as if it wasn't there, a big monitor lizard maybe. In the late morning we checked the traps again and missed another monitor lizard, David and myself throwing ourselves headlong into the mud in a failed attempt to prevent its escape. Laca relocated one of the tree traps to where he had seen a monitor lying on a branch.

Laca relocating and improving one of the tree traps Caitlin checking one of the ground-level traps

Around this time it started to rain, lightly at first but gradually increasing in strength through the day until the horizon disappeared, then the boats off-shore disappeared in the haze. This was the first real rain of the expedition, but it was to be expected at this time of year.

Back in camp we started prepping specimens and doing photography while some of the expedition members began a sweep of the compound, turning (and replacing) rocks, tin-sheeting, pieces of timber and other potential reptile hiding places. They turned up numerous Common house geckos (Hemidactylus frenatus) and a bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus sp.). Caitlin and Sven moved across the road into some secondary scrub where they encountered two snakes. Caitlin saw a treesnake which did not fit the description of a Timor bronzeback (Dendrelaphis inornatus timorensis) but until we capture a specimen we cannot determine what it might have been. Sven's snake was an Island wolfsnake (Lycodon capucinus) but it also evaded capture. Further searching resulted in the capture of two blindsnakes (Ramphotyphlops sp.), which appear to be very common on Ataúro, and a small stub-toed gecko (Gehyra sp.).

With the rain seemingly settled in for the day, we had to re-think our plan to drive up to Macadade for a night search for the Manucoco bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus sp.). It would be too cold and wet for the lizards to be active and the road would be unpleasant and potentially dangerous to drive at night.

Instead we took both vehicles and went to check the monitor lizard traps again. Both tree-located traps had been destroyed in the same fashion as the trap in the morning. We only had sufficient extra-strong mesh to make a single trap so we decided we would set one strong, hopefully monitor-proof trap the next day. The rain may have cancelled our Macadade drive but it may have increased the chances of finding snakes on the road, so we continued with both vehicles as far as Vila at the south end of the island but failed to find anything of interest on the road.

The rain started