AUSTRALIA
2000


"After The Flood"

Hunter River, Western Australia

So it was on the morning of 10th June 2000, after eight days in the gorge, I recorded a "piece to camera" (PTC) explaining how we had failed to find the much needed Rough-scaled python (Morelia carinata) for the captive-breeding program at the Australian Reptile Park. I explained that although I was leaving with the crew and most of the team in two days time, John Weigel and his friend Alf were remaining behind to continue their search.

Shortly afterwards John, who had been out from "Shangri-La"searching on his own the previous night, came into camp with a snakebag and a big smile. I would now have to record a new PTC because John had captured a large female Rough-scaled python in the fragmented forest at the head of the gorge. Our expedition had been successful after all, although sadly the capture was not itself captured for the film.

The python had a wound on its back and this was treated and dressed by John and Ann.

Female Rough-scaled python, Morelia carinata
Mark with female
Rough-scaled python
, Morelia carinata
John with female
Rough-scaled python
, Morelia carinata
Ann and John treat female
Rough-scaled python
, Morelia carinata
while Rob and Alf look on
Photo: Rob Pendlebury

The following day we recorded a new PTC and picked up all the other necessary sequences, interviews and general views (GVs) necessary to complete the film. We also broke camp as the helicopters would start the evacuation to Mitchell Plateau at 6:00 in the morning of the final day.

I heard the first helicopter coming in to the gorge as I packed my kit but I also heard a shout from up on the opposite slopes of the gorge. Alf Britton was shouting about a python and shortly after Dave Pearson (CALM) ran by calling to me to grab a camera. Dave, Ann and I set off up to where Alf and John were herping and when we arrived we learned Alf had come across an 2.0 m Olive python (Liasis olivaceous olivaceous) in the act of eating a Rough-scaled python. He had rescued the second python, which turned out to be the make John needed, but the olive python was three-quarters disappeared into the rocks when I arrived and grabbed hold of it. Ann and Dave returned to the campsite as the first helicopter had left and the second was landing, but I remained with John and Alf, neither of whom were leaving today, and eventually I managed to extricate the larger snake from the rocks.We returned to camp with both specimens, the olive python being photographed and released, the male rough-scaled python being made ready to leave with the female obtained two days before.

 

Male Rough-scaled python, Morelia carinata
Olive python, Liasis olivaceus olivaceus
Tired, dirty but triumphant from the struggle, Mark and Alf with the
Olive python
, Liasis olivaceus olivaceus
Ben Tannock from CALM with one of the
Rough-scaled pythons, Morelia carinata
Photo: Rob Pendlebury
AP Robert with one of the
Rough-scaled pythons, Morelia carinata
Photo: Rob Pendlebury
The team with the three pythons

The herpetologists: (l-r) John Weigel, Ben Tannock, Mark O'Shea, Dave Pearson, Rob Porter and Alf Britton

After ten days in the Hunter River gorge we had managed to obtain two pythons for the breeding program, but unfortunately neither capture was captured on film.

It took seven helicopter shuttles to airlift 11 people, 2 pythons and our filming, camping and personal equipment out to Mitchell Plateau where our three fixed-wing aircraft were waiting to fly us back to Kununurra and cold beers. Rob Porter took charge of the two pythons which would return to ARP with him the following day.