Karkar Island
Madang Province
5-12 May 2008
Page 1 - The Island

Map showing Karkar and Bagabag Islands, Madang Province, PNG.
click to enlarge map

Map showing Karkar Island, Madang Province, PNG.
click to enlarge map

On route to Karkar Island, we asked the pilot if he would divert over the actual crater of Mt Uluman, the volcano in the centre of Karkar Island that erupted in 1974 and 1979, and threatens to erupt again. As the weather was relatively good he agreed and our circuling of the crater gave Dave and myself ample opportunities for photography. Jasper cowered on the floor of the aircraft, he did not like the volcano.

Views of the crator of Mt Uluman.

We then headed for the Kinim airstrip north of Kaviak Plantation, our usual base, coming in from the north due to our volcano over-flight.

Flying over a Karkar settlement.
Flying to Kaviak from the north, an unusual approach. The landing strip at Kinim, north of Kaviak. On the final approach, in the rain.

We based as usual at the Kaviak guest house, courtesy of the Middleton family who have been long-time supporters of our venomous snake and snakebite fieldwork.

Front garden of Kaviak guest house,
with watertower.
Back garden of Kaviak guest house,
note my photographic Cubelite in the verandah.


Karkar Island coconut plantation habitat.


Check the 2006 visit to Karkar for further details of the island and its coconut plantation economy.
In 2008 we were again assisted by Timothy, a local plantation worker, and of course our own nambawan snekman Jasper.

The Principle Researchers
David Williams,
Australian herpetologist and toxinologist,
searching a coconut husk pile.
Mark O'Shea,
British herpetologist and broadcaster, tailing a
New Guinea small-eyed snake,
Micropechis ikaheka

The main purpose of the 2008 visit to Karkar Island, as with previous visits, was to collect specimens of New Guinea small-eyed snake (Micropechis ikaheka) for snakebite research. The second quest species was the Karkar population of the Smooth-scaled death adder (Acanthophis laevis). The third purpose was an ongoing survey of the herpetofauna of Karkar Island.

Jasper (foreground right) and Timothy clear
kudzu vine, Pueraria spp., from the husk piles.
Interior of a coconut husk pile
(see 2006 visit to Karkar for an account of husk pile construction, composition and succession)
Plantation workers assist in the snake hunts... but immediately break to cook and eat any rats or bandicoots flushed from the husk piles.

Two large species of stick insects (Phasmatidae) were found in the vegetation on Karkar Island, the Giant spiny stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata), a species considered closely related to the almost extinct Lord Howe tree lobster (Dryococelus australis), and the Giant winged stick insect (Phasma gigas), a member of a group of phasmids thatare thought to have re-evolved wings after loosing them some 50million years previously.

Karkar Island Inverts
Giant stick insect, Phasma gigas [Phasmatidae]
Giant thorny stick insect, Eurycantha calcarata [Phasmatidae]

The Results of our Labours:

[Page 2 - The Island Herps]
[Page 3 - The Husk Pile Herps]

The week on Karkar was soon over and we headed back to Madang and hence to Port Moresby.