29 June 2012 1 of 2


BAUCAU, BAUCAU DISTRICT, TIMOR-LESTE

 


TIMOR-LESTE REPTILE & AMPHIBIAN SURVEY
PHASE VII: CARLIA (IN A) SPOT

Today we planned to drive to Baguia in the mountains to the southeast, but sometime in the late morning/early afternoon after I had completed photographic and field notes work on the laptop. Everyone was packed, so to use the spare time usefully Hinrich took the rest of the team to a location south of Baucau on the Venilale road, which had become know as "the Carlia spot". In 2009 while Hinrich was similarily occupied with computer admin I had taken a group of the students south and found this spot near a village in the Ossu River valley. Amongst the specimens we had collected was an unusual Four-fingered skink (Carlia sp.) so the following year the team had returned to the location and found some more specimens. The location seemed like a worthy place to spend a few hours meaningfully .... or so it seemed at the time!

I was working away steadily and managed to complete my work long before the others returned. I wondered what had delayed them but thought they were probably having such a good time they had forgotten what time it actually was. I was wrong.

Hinrich and the team had been confronted by angry men on motorcycles wielding machetes and demanding to know what they were doing. They were escorted to a village where Paulo and Hinrich were forced to explain themselves to the villagers. It was at this point Hinrich sent me a text to explain the delay—with GPS coordinates, "just in case". Hinrich produced our research permit and the letter from the Prime Minister, and that smoothed the atmosphere even though there was still the issue of whether he actually was the "Hinrich Kaiser" mentioned on the papers. Two men were eventually dispatched on a motorcycle to photocopy the papers (we now carry photocopies ourselves) and the situation changed completely as apologies were offered and the entire team was fed lunch. A conversation with the local Chefe de Suco would have avoided any tensions, and it was a lesson learned: even just off the road in Timor-Leste, you are in someone's backyard!

Eventually the team left the village and returned to the Albergaria with their story, one Carlia and a large blindsnake we think may be Ramphotyphlops polygrammicus. It being too late to attempt the journey to Baguia, where we had no idea whether we would find accommodation or the local chefe de suco for permission to conduct research, we decided to spend one more night in Baucau.

The "Carlia spot"
Four-fingered skink
Carlia sp.
Timor blindsnake
Ramphotyphlops polygrammicus