Victor Valley College Tropical Research Initiative
Herpetofauna of Timor-Leste
Phase II

Ataúro Island, Dili District

Ataúro Island is located only 2-3 hours north of Dili by ferry, but zoogeographically it is located in the Inner Banda Arc of the Lesser Sunda Islands, between Alor and Wetar, and is therefore likely to possess a herpetofauna representative of these islands, rather than of the Southern Arc, comprising Sumba, Savu, Roti, Semau and Timor.

Atauro Island, viewed from Dili on the mainland.


Tua Koin Resort, Vila - expedition base camp,
with Mt Manucoco behind.

The expedition was based in the Tua Koin Resort at Vila on the east coast, but the main emphasis of the first short visit to Atauro was to take the road up to the northwest of Mt Manococo, the island's highest point at 995m, and then trek over the mountain and back down to Makili on the coast, and thence back to Vila, collecting herps enroute.

The team take a break near
the summit of Mt Manucoco.


Atauro Island (click on map to enlarge and view locations in southeast).

Despite being less than 1,000m the forest on Mt Manucoco was festooned with lichens, ferns and mosses and dense mists swirled in and out extremely quickly, with local valleys and peaks appearing and disappearing from view within a few moments. Some of the trek was along narrow, slippery trails cut into steep slopes of the ridge-line where extreme caution was required to prevent a fall. The trek eventually took 11 hours and the team arrived back at Vila after dark.

Mt Manucoco from the east coast,
a series of sharp ridge lines.

On our first visit to Ataúro Island the lizards most in evidence were geckos: Common house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus); Mutilated gecko (Gehyra mutilata); Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko), and an as yet unidentified, possibly undescribed, species of Bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus sp.). I also have an interest in arachnids and photographed an interesting spiny orb-weaving spider (Gasteracantha sp.) on Ataúro Island.

Part of the herp team working up Ataúro specimens:
left to right: Hinrich Kaiser, Caitlin Sanchez, Jester Ceballos
and Venancio Lopez Carvalho (Benny).


click on an image to enlarge
Common house gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus
Mutilated gecko, Gehyra mutilata
Tokay gecko, Gekko gecko
Bent-toed gecko, Cyrtodactylus sp.


Spiny orb-weaver, Gasteracantha sp.


Herp team on Mt Manucoco, Ataúro Island, Timor-Leste 2010
Back: Dan Suzio, local woman, Agivedo (Laca) Riberio.
Middle: Eric Leatham, Jester Caballos, Luis Lemos, Zito Afranio.
Front: Mark O’Shea, Caitlin Sanchez, Marianna Tucci, MJ Weil,
Venancio Lopez Carvalho (Benny), Scott Heacox.
Photo: Hinrich Kaiser

click to enlarge