Central Province
10 September 2006

Map showing the routes and collection localities in Central Province.
click to enlarge map

On Sunday 10 September, the day before the snakebite management course began, we all made a trip southeast down the coast of Central Province to Hula, where we had been told the fishermen had collected some stonefish for AVRU.

Hula beach, home of stonefish.
This clever dog on a hot day dug a hole.
Children vie for the camera in Hula village.
Kunai grass and palms on the village landward side.
Freshwater habitats near Hula, good crocodile, turtle and snake country.

Reef stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa, are the most venomous fish in the world. Their resemblance to lumps of coral is uncanny but they possess 13 enlarged dorsal spines that will inject and extremely painful and rapidly lethal venom deep into the foot of anyone who steps on one. In the event no stonefish had actually been caught and while the others relaxed, David and I went further along the coast, searching unsuccessfully for snakes. All we found where Eastern bicarinate four-fingered skinks (Carlia bicarinata) and Slender forest skinks (Sphenomorphus cf. fragilis).

Eastern bicarinate four-fingered skink,
Carlia bicarinata
Slender forest skink,
Sphenomorphus cf. fragilis.

A stonefish was delivered to Port Moresby the following day and Dave Williams extracted venom from it for Laura Griesman, a visiting American researcher working at AVRU on a Fulbright Scholarship. The fish was temprarily confined in a water-filled polystyrene box with a slit in the top through which Dave could ease a vacuum tube. When the rubber grommit of the tube was pushed over the venomous dorsal spine venom was drawn into the sterile tube... easy, and the process did not harm the stonefish.

Reef stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa
Close-up of the stonefish's venomous dorsal spines.
Lifting the stonefish from its tank for venom extraction.
With stonfish confined in a tub of water, the polystyrene cover is applied.
Dave carefully extracting venom from the stonefish through a slit in the polystyrene, using a vacuum tube placed over a venomous dorsal spine. A vacuum tube of stonefish venom is examined by AVRU Fellow and emergency physician Simon Jensen and Fulbright Scholar Laura Griesman.
Precision work!