Victor Valley College Tropical Research Initiative
Herpetofauna of Timor-Leste
Com, Lautém District
Com is fairly well situated for exploring Lautém. we could have stayed at Lospalos, which was more central, but the extra drive back and forth to Com on the north coast was worth while, the Com Beach Resort was a good place for biologists to relax, unwind, chill and be ill (more of that later).
We planned recces in various locations for Phase V fieldwork but these were spread over a considerable distance and the roads in Lautém District are in serious need of repair - there are stretches of disarmingly good road, with sudden axle-breaking potholes, on both sides of the road so you cannot avoid them even with some deft steering. Rentló car hire companies warns against "driving in the districts" and their office is festooned with some very sobering images of wrecked vehicles in every possible position and condition.
The map below shows the main locations, all reached via Bauro south of Com over the limestone plateau, ie. west to Raça; east to Mehara, Tutuala, Tutuala Beach (Pantai Walu) and Jaco Island; south to Lospalos and then northeast to Malahara and Mainina in the Paixtau Mountains. The distances were not great, the time taken to tranverse them might be.
Our first full day at Com was a full driving day, recce'ing all the routes except the really tough road from Tutuala down to Tutuala Beach.
A map of Lautém District showing Phase V locations click on map to enlarge
But that did not mean we had not interest in the herps at Com, indeed it proved a very interesting location, even the accommodation providing us with specimens the very night we arrived - the drivers (Hinrich and Mark) relaxed with a beer while the students and the Jets, under Caitlin's expert eye, set about chasing geckos and frogs all over the resort.
Common house gecko,
Brook's Asian house gecko,
Indo-Pacific house gecko,
Rice paddy frog,
The resort accomodation was surely gecko heaven - the students found all the perianthropic species except the Mutilated gecko (Gehyra cf. mutilata) although oddly at the time we thought several of the specimens belonged to this parthenogenic species. They collected the Common house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus), Fat-tailed gecko (H.platyurus), Brook's Asian house gecko (H.brookii) and our first specimens of Indo-Pacific house gecko (H.garnotii), another parthenogenetic species. They also bagged a couple of young Tokay geckos (Gekko gecko), and some Rice paddy frogs (Fejervarya sp.) that were calling in a small pond just outside the compound. Not a bad evening's work having just arrived.
So we already had a lot of specimens to identify and photograph, and from which to select voucher specimens. The next morning the photographic set went up outside Mark and Hinrich's room while the specimen prep table was erected outside Caitlin and Marissa's room next door - we were in business.
David and Caitlin in the make-shift lab area.
Mark and Naveen taking care of photography.
photos: Hinrich Kaiser
But the Com Beach Resort was also ideally placed to be our base for field trips into other parts of Lautém District. Our first full day at Com was taken with extensive recce's to all the main locations we planned to survey, ie. Raça, for the Raça caves, Tutuala, for Jaco Island, and Mehara, for Mainina sink hole.
The Com Resort Hotel is located on the junction of the Dili-Com road with the Bauro and Lospalos road.