PAPUA NEW GUINEA 2006

Waigani Swamp
National Capital District
18 October 2006


Map showing Waigani Swamp, National Capital District.
click to enlarge map

During the 3weeks between the Milne Bay and the upcoming Oro Province expeditions, I had been partly recovering a back injury sustained in Milne Bay, and Jasper had gone one better, and been bitten by one of our taipan in the Serpentarium. Due to Dave's prompt action, the close prxomity of the unit to Port Moresby General Hospital, and the availability of antivenom, Jasper had made a rapid recovery.

One of the first tasks was to release the Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) from Tawali. Dave and I considered the Laloki River a likely place since it flowed west into the swamps of Galley Reach and would quickly carry the young crocodile into prime big crocodile habitat. The trip to release the crocodile allowed for a recce of the best route to enter Waigani Swamp.

Releasing the young
Saltwater crocodile
, Crocodylus porosus,
into the Laloki River, downstream of settlements.

Located on the outskirts of Port Moresby, Waigani Swamp was where a curious brown Papuan blacksnake (Pseudechis papuanus) was collected in the 1970s, according to the Department of Environment and Conservation fieldworker who had collected it and who I had tracked down and interviewed in 1990. That a population of this rare snake still existed close to Port Moresby was questionable but the fact that some or all specimens might be brown made a visit tempting. This was one of those little projects that had been on the "back-burner" for several years.

Head of brown specimen of
Papuan blacksnake
, Pseudechis papuanus,
collected in the 1970s at Waigani Swamp.

Jasper and I made an early start to meet a local counciller from the Nazareth Mission, near an old disused airstrip, who was going to be our guide around this expansive, wild and fairly dangerous swamp area, without his help and local knowledge we could find ourselves with problems, not necessarily with navigation, more with 'raskals', PNG's own special brand of armed brigands and bandits who reputedly frequent Waigani Swamp.

The Counciller and Jasper at Waigani Swamp.

This visit served primarily as a recce for planned future visits so we covered a lot of ground in a few hours. Jasper was walking in a new pair of boots and being a man who normally goes barefoot he found the trek uncomfortable.

Waigani Swamp is huge and contains many differing watercourses. It is a waterbird and wading bird paradise, but not somewhere the casual ornithologist should just wander into without local guidance for reasons mentioned above. Waigani Swamp is also home to a large population of crocodiles, another consideration for persons approaching the water's edge.

Views of Waigani Swamp, a vast sparcely populated area near Port Moresby.

Around the lakes at Waigani Swamp, could be found abandoned megapode nests, huge mounds of earth constructed and excavated by birds belonging the family Megapodiidae, six species of which occur in Papua New Guinea. These nests are often good places to search for skinks, snakes or egg-stealing monitor lizards.

Megapode nest at Waigani Swamp.

The only reptiles sighted during the trek were Bicarinate four-fingered skinks (Carlia bicarinata) although the Waigani Swamp area held promise for future visits.

The dark side to Waigani Swamp,
a car-jacked, burnt-out ambulance.