09 August 2014 1 of 1

TIMOR-LESTE (Dili Distr.)



Back at TLH in Dili there is much to do as the project winds down. Hinrich is busy with export permits and other matters pertaining to the vouchered specimens going to the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and the Museum Koenig in Bonn, Germany. Sven is wiped out and feeling ill so a good sleep should sort him out. The rest of us are ready for some more fieldwork so we all piled into my troopie and, having picked up Laca in town, took off for one of my favourite locations - the mangrove swamp at Metinaro about 25 km east of Dili along the coast. Metinaro is the only Timorese location where we have found Little filesnake (Acrochordus granulatus) and Crab-eating mangrove snake (Fordonia leucobalia), and it is one of three locations where we have found Dog-faced watersnakes (Cerberus schneiderii). It is also the most likely place where we might find a very elusive species, Cantor's watersnake (Cantoria violacea), the only snake species historically reported from Timor that we have not yet documented or dismissed. But mangrove swamps are also uncomfortable places to work, and very smelly due to the hydrogen sulfide in the mud. We reached Metinaro around 16:00 when it was still a hot day, and worked our way into the swamp. There are three levels in this swamp, an outer curtain of new mangrove regrowth, a huge area of destroyed mangroves from the 2006 settlement of displaced refugees from Dili, who cut the timber for firewood, and then nearer the sea, a dense mature mangrove forest. As the sun set we started to search for snakes in earnest, wading up the creeks and peering into the burrows of the Mud lobster (Thalassina anomala), as much a builder of mangrove swamps as the mangrove plants (Rhizophora) themselves. Homalopsid snakes often spend their days down the mud lobster burrows waiting for darkness and the incoming tide. And that was our problem, the tide was still hours from turning when we started searching at 18:00 and the darkness so beloved of nocturnal snakes was not going to happen as we had a cloudless sky and a near full moon for company. We got cut, muddy, bruised and tired and returned to the troopie snake-less. Max and I bagged the only herp, a Common house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) in the regrowth on the swamp edge. Then it was back to TLH.

Regrowth mangroves and destroyed trees
Mud lobster burrow
Mature mangrove forest
Waiting for darkness in the swamp (l-r) Laura, Max, Lukas & Mirco
Common house gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus

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