13 July 2014 1 of 3

TIMOR-LESTE (Oecusse to Dili Distr.)



Today we were heading back to Dili, a journey of only about 200 kms but one that would take around seven hours because of the quality of some of the roads and the abundance of trucks and small motorcycles... and the fact that we brake for road-kills!

This is probably one of the differences between amateur herpers and scientists: snake enthusiasts out road-cruising are usually (not always, admittedly) interested in LIVE snakes, and they may drive on and ignore dead specimens. Professional herpetologists stop when sighting road-kills because they provide useful information, not least confirming the presence of the species in that area. Driving back from Sakato to Batugade, through Indonesian West Timor, we stopped for four road-killed snakes in a relatively small distance: one Leser Sunda racer (Coelognathus subradiatus) and three Island pitvipers (Trimeresurus insularis). For each specimen we took photographs and recorded the GPS. We did not take specimens or even tissues because the specimens were too decayed but especially because our collection permits are for Timor-Leste and not for Indonesia. At all times when examining road-kill it is important to be mindful of other road traffic and avoid becoming a road-kill oneself!

Lesser Sunda racer
Coelognathus subradiatus
Island pitviper
Trimeresurus insularis
Island pitvipers
Trimeresurus insularis

It is also worth noting that most or all these snakes were not killed by traffic while crossing the road. The presence of a full moon recently was a considerable deterrent to snakes moving around or crossing roads at night. Most of these specimens had probably been uncovered by villagers where they slept during the day and, once killed, were thrown onto the road. This was certainly confirmed by a women who approached us as we examined one pitviper, and the racer looked as if it had been chopped with a machete.

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