PAPUA NEW GUINEA 2006

 

Higaturu: Higaturu mini-estates
Oro Province
19-24 October 2006


Map showing the routes and collection localities in Oro Province, PNG.
click to enlarge map

Although our main search areas were located towards Embogo, east of Higaturu Oil Palm's main plantations, we did investigate the plantation blocks around Higaturu itself, particularly Sigaro, where Gabby Cris lived, and Arehe, a promising area some way north.

At Arehe we chased and missed a treesnake (Dendrelaphis sp.) and also missed a forest skink (Sphenomoprhus sp.) but we did capture a Long-tailed keelback (Tropidonophis multiscutellatus) which gave me a chance to get Gabby used to handling harmless snakes. We also saw several four-fingered skinks (Carlia sp.).

Dead palms line road to Arehe. Level habitat in the Arehe block.
Undulating habitat in Arehe block.
Gabby Cris with the Long-tailed keelback, Tropidonophis multiscutellatus
Long-tailed keelback, Tropidonophis multiscutellatus

At the Sigaro block, near Gabby's house, we found Blue-tailed skinks (Emoia caeruleocauda) sunning themselves on discarded coconut husks. This species is sexually dichromatic, only the males have electric blue tails for display.

Blue-tailed skink, Emoia caeruleocauda (male)
Blue-tailed skink, Emoia caeruleocauda (female)

Gabby's snake handling lessons almost backfired on me when one morning he handed me a bag he said contained another keelback. It actually contained Müller's crowned snake (Aspidomorphus muelleri), one of PNG's lesser elapids capable of delivering a serious but non-lethal snakebite. Suitably chastised Gabby promised not to catch snakes without me around again.

SNAKES from SIGARO BLOCK
click to enlarge
Müller's crowned snake, Aspidomorphus muelleri

Our most successful snake-hunting trip around Higaturu was at night when we explored a reservoir system linked the water supply and sewerage disposal for the plantation offices and village. By lantern-light we captured a second large New Guinea small-eyed snake (Micropechis ikaheka) which made the planned trip to Mamba Estates no longer necessary with now two of these medically important snakes in the bag from Oro Province!

New Guinea small-eyed snake, Micropechis ikaheka from Higaturu