PAPUA NEW GUINEA 2008

 

Port Moresby
National Capital District

 

Port Moresby is the capital of Papua New Guinea. It is located in the National Capital District enclave, on the southern side of the Papuan Peninsula between the Owen Stanley Mountain Range and the Coral Sea, and surrounded on all landward sides by Central Province. Named in 1873, by Captain John Moresby of HMS Basilisk, in honour of his father Admiral Sir Fairfax Moresby*.

Port Moresby has a population of over 300,000 (almost 4.3% of the total population of the country) and an unenviable reputation as crime ridden**. It is also not a good place to be for snakes as they are killed on sight. Yet we still occasionally receive calls to capture, remove or identify snakes around Port Moresby and in 2008 we were called to a New Guinea carpet python (Morelia spilota harrisoni) and an Eastern common keelback (Tropidonophis mairii mairii). Other carpet pythons were seen dead on the roads around the capital.

* Admiral Sir Fairfax Moresby was also honoured by the naming of Port Moresby's large natural habour as Fairfax Harbour.
** Port Moresby was listed as 137th, out of 14o, in a scale of most liveable v. least liveable cities, The Economist (2010) and 130th out of 130, in a scale of safe v. dangerous cities, by The Guardian (2004).

New Guinea carpet python, Morelia spilota harrisoni
Eastern common keelback, Tropidonophis mairii mairii

The Australian Venom Research Unit (AVRU) snakebite research project (Snakebusters PNG) is based in Port Moresby. The Serpentarium or haus bilong snek, is located on the Taurama campus of the University of PNG (UPNG) behind Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH). From here we make expeditions up and down the coast on the Hiritano and Magi Highways respectively, and out to other provinces in our efforts to collect medically important elapids (venomous snakes) and carry out herpetofaunal and snakebite surveys. We also sometimes find herps around the Serpentarium, such as the Mourning gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) captured on the wall of the building.

Mourning gecko, Lepidodactylus lugubris