PAPUA NEW GUINEA 2013

Oro Province
Heropa & Parahe

The Heropa Mini-estate was where I had seen six New Guinea brownsnakes (Pseudonaja textilis) and captured three, in 2006. These were the first brownsnakes seen or captured in Oro Province since the first specimen was killed and identified in the 1960s. Although in 2006 I had not seen any brownsnakes in the Parahe Mini-estate Owen and David had obtained a specimen there a year or so after my visit. I am of the opinion that the Girua River acts as a barrier to the brownsnake since there are no records from the the bustling plantation surrounding Popondetta on the western side of the river.

The dominating feature of coastal Oro Province is the cloud-shrouded Mt Lamington, the volcano that erupted and caused so much devastation and loss of life in the 1950s. It looms over Popondetta as an ever-present threat. It is also home to a population of Toxicocalamus snakes I would love to examine, but time and priorities will again prevent a jaunt to its slopes.

It looks benign but Mt Lamington, looming in the distance, erupted in the 1950s with devastating results.

The other side of Girua Airport we took a new track down onto the disused WWII airstrip at Dobudora where we encountered several bush fires. We explored the fires for fleeing snakes but were in competition with the neighbour-hood hawks. When the fires were close to the dirt road we saw dozens of Mys' four-fingered skinks (Carlia mysi) and Papuan Peninsula litter skinks (Carlia curta) fleeing the flames being driven onto the road. We attempted to capture some skinks but the hawks were faster than us, swooping in, casting a shadow over us as they came down right above our heads, and snatching the lizards from the road in front of us. They took many skinks but only one snake was seen crossing the road and that fast-moving serpent made the other side safely and unidentified.

Mark on the road, awaiting snakes fleeing the fire
The hawks doing likewise in the trees
Inside the bush fire
In come the dive bombing hawks to pluck fleeing skinks from the road

We did eventually bag several skinks despite the best intentions of the hawks.

Mys' four-fingered skink, Carlia mysi, unicolour male
Mys' four-fingered skink, Carlia mysi, striped female
Papuan Peninsula litter skink, Carlia curta