Logo of Snakebusters PNG snakebite research group
Australian Venom Research Unit.

11th September - 11th November 2006


Map showing the destinations for the Papua New Guinea 2006 expedition
1: Alotau, Milne Bay Prov.; 2: Popondetta, Oro Prov.; 3: Madang, Madang Prov. .

click to enlarge map

The main herpetological aim of the project was to travel to different parts of the Papua New Guinea to capture venomous snakes and return with them to the Serpentarium or haus bilong snek, a unit established in the grounds of the UPNG Dept. of Medicine on the Taurama Campus, behind Port Moresby General Hospital.

The instigator and coordinator of the project is David Williams, an Australian herpetologist and AVRU researcher with ten years experience in PNG. Also intimately involved in the research, is University of Wales, Bangor, herpetologist and snake phylogeneticist Dr Wolfgang Waster (the only man alive to have named four new cobras).

After a meeting to plan the project, at my Shrophire home, we decided to call it:

Wokabaut long kisim olgeta kainkain poisen snek bilong Papua Niugini

which translates from the ‘tok pisin’ as “An expedition to Papua New Guinea to capture highly venomous snakes for venom and snakebite research” - “Snakebusters PNG”, for short.

To collect all the specimens required, from different parts of their ranges across Papua New Guinea, would require several expeditions over a number of years. The first of these was scheduled to take place during September and October 2006 and the provinces chosen for visits were Milne Bay, Oro and Madang.

I designed a logo for the t-shirts and polos, and approached the Explorers’ Club of New York, of which I have been a Fellow since 1999, to have the expedition accredited as a ‘Flag Expedition’. They acceded and sent EC Flag no.151, a flag with a long and illustrious history going back over 50 years, to accompany us to PNG.

Before the course began there were a lot of other tasks to be completed, including preparing the new AVRU Serpentarium for the many venomous snakes we hoped it would eventually house. The Serpentarium was a disused unit in the grounds of the University of PNG’s Taurama Campus, behind the Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH), and when I arrived from the UK it was in the process of being thoroughly cleaned and repainted in readiness. I wondered whether I had left the West Midland Safari Park, where the new “Record Breakers” exhibits were under construction, and flown over 9,000miles, in 3days, only to work on ........more snake cages!

I was excused hard labour, those getting their sleeves rolled up being AVRU members from Melbourne, in town for the snakebite management course, including the Director Dr Kenneth Winkel, andDr Simon Jensen, a consultant in emergency medicine.

Snakebusters PNG 2006 in the Sagarai River plantations,
Milne Bay Province.
(back) Cathy Pook with Probagger;
Jasper Gabugabu & Timothy Bosalidi (field assistant) with PNG flag; David Williams with Probagger;
(front) Wolfgang Wüster & Mark O'Shea with
Explorers' Club of New York Flag no.151.


The Snakebusters PNG 2006 fieldworkers.

David Williams [AVRU Researcher and Project Leader]
Mark O'Shea [AVRU Research Fellow]
Wolfgang Wüster [AVRU Research Fellow and University of Wales, Bangor]
Simon Jensen [AVRU Research Fellow]
Cathy Pook [University of Wales, Bangor]
Jasper Gabugabu [AVRU-UPNG snake room technician]
Bina Mistry [BBC]

An important few words of warning to herpers wishing to visit Papua New Guinea


The areas where we visited or where we conducted fieldwork were the following:

1. Central Province and Port Moresby 11-18 September, 3-10 October, 25 October, 5-8 November:
a) AVRU Serpentarium;
b) Hula, 10 September;
c) National Snakebite Management Course, 11-15 September;
d) Dangerous Snakes of Papua New Guinea stamp launch, 13 September;
e) Hiritano & Magi Highways, 16-18 September;
see 2. Milne Bay Province
f) Loloata and Lion Islands, 14 October;
g) Waigani Swamp, 18 October;
see 3. Oro Province

2. Milne Bay Province 19 September-2 October:
a) Alotau and the northeastern peninsula;
b) Wamawamana and the north coast;
c) Sagarai River valley and the south coast.

3. Oro Province 19-24 October:
a) Popondetta to Oro Bay;
b) Higaturu: Higaturu mini-estates;
c) Higaturu: Buna Road mini-estates.

4. Madang Province 26 October-4 November:
a) Madang mainland;
b) Karkar Island.

5. Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 9-10 November:
a) Exotic Venomous Snake Forum.

Expedition Results - a full life list of herps recorded during the 20o6 expedition.