Hiritano and Magi Highways
Central Province

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

[see also visits to Hiritano Hwy road trips in 2008 & 2010]

The following week most of the AVRU personnel returned to Australia and Wolfgang Wüster and Cathy Pook arrived from Bangor. The five of us (David, Simon, Wolfgang, Cathy and myself) took the opportunity to make a few evening snake hunting road-trips southeast down the Magi Highway to Kwikila and Bannon Bridge, and northwest up the Hiritano Highway to Vaifa’a and into Gulf Province as far as Malalaua. This last was the longest journey, a round trip of 600kms.

Bannon Bridge village. The old and new Bannon Bridges. Villagers in the Kemp Welch River.

Although we found no venomous snakes we did come across a number of other species: one Common treesnake (DOR, Dendrelaphis punculatus), four brown treesnakes (one DOR, Boiga irregularis), two Slatey-grey snakes (both DOR, Stegonotus cucullatus), two Papuan carpet pythons (one DOR, Morelia spilota harrisoni), and one each Amethystine python (M.amethistina) and Southern white-lipped python (Leiopython hoserae). Many of these specimens were sadly DOR but we did manage to capture a few alive, for photography and release away from the road.

Brown treesnake, Boiga irregularis
Papuan carpet python, Morelia spilota harrisoni
Amethystine python, Morelia amethisina
Southern white-lipped python, Leiopython hoserae

We also heard some interesting frog calls on the Brown River Flats at the southern end of the Hiritano Highway, and also in a swamp near Malalaua, at the further extent of the road. The commonest species encountered along the entire highway, apart from the ubiquitous introduced Cane toad (Rhinella marina) were the Southern treefrog (Litoria congenita) and the White-lipped treefrog (L.infrafrenata), arguably the largest treefrog in the world, and a third species, the Rocket frog (L.nasuta) was also found at Malalaua.

Southern treefrog, Litoria congenita
White-lipped treefrog, Litoria infrafrenata
Rocket frog, Litoria nasuta

Daytime searches under rocks and dead foliage on the slopes of Mt Lawes, between Port Moresby and Brown River, produced a few lizards: the Common house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus), Pelagic gecko (Nactus cf. pelagicus), on rocky outcrops we found Yule Island snake-eyed skinks (Cryptoblepharus yulensis) and in the grass, Burton's snake lizard (Lialis burtonis) which preys on small lizards. On the road near Mt Lawes we saw several flighty Two-striped dragons (Lophura temporalis) that were gone into the kunai grass before we got close.

Common house gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus
Pelagic gecko, Nactus cf. pelagicus
Pelagic gecko, Nactus cf. pelagicus
Yule Island snake-eyed skink, Cryptoblepharus yulensis
Burton's snake-lizard, Lialis burtonis

[see also visits to Hiritano Hwy road trips in 2008 & 2010]