Victor Valley College Tropical Research Initiative
Herpetofauna of Timor-Leste
Raça, Lautém District
From the Com Beach Resort the team drove up southwest up a steep climb, through through the villages of Petileti and Iraono and then across an expansive limestone plateau devoid of habitations, before dropping down two inclines into a valley separating the plateau from a second limestone escarpment tothe west. From here the road ran into Bauro, the hub for northern Lautém District. The roadfrom Com enters from the north, the road to Mehara and Tutuala exits to the east, that to Lospalos and southern Lautém, to the south, while a fourth road exits to the west. This was the road the expedition took to reach Raça (Laca's village) and the caves 3.5 kms northwest of the village, on the second limestone escarpment.
Map of Com to Bauro road showing limestone plateau and escarpment
and location of Raça and Raça caves.
Mouse-over for Google satellite map and click for enlarged topographic map.
The view across the limestone plateau between Com and Bauro, Lake Ira Lalaro is to the right
Click on panoramas to enlarge.
Komodo dragon motifs on a house wall.
Raça is Laca's home village and the caves 3.5 km to the north were where he conducted his personal herp survey as part of his degree thesis.
Amongst Laca's specimen collection were a number of interesting specimens, including a single bent-toed gecko of the genus Cyrtodactylus. Our main purpose for visiting Raça was to obtain a few more specimens so we could compare them with Cyrtodactylus from other parts of Timor-Leste and determine whether they represented a new species.
We parked our vehicles at Laca's house and trekked to the caves.
The cave trek team:
(back) Naveen, Rogerio, Roberto, Mark;
(middle) David, Marissa, Bosco, Caitlin;
(front) Zito, Jasmi, Laca, Luis;
Hinrich is behind the camera.
We drove to Laca's house and trekked the short distance to the caves with Laca, Luis, Zito and some of Laca's brothers and friends. We searched all likely habitats enroute.
Near Raça village Laca captured a Timor flying lizard (Draco timoriensis) and Hinrich gave an improptu lecture on adaptions for gliding in reptiles.
Timor flying lizard,Draco timoriensis (male)
Hinrich gives an impromptu lecture on flying lizards
We also searched limestone rock piles, missing a Night skink (Eremiascincus sp.) and ending up with just its cast-off tail.
Scattered rocks provided locations for geckos, skinks and in particular a large number of giant centipedes.
The limestone escarpment above Raça which contains the cave system we hoped to
survey for reptiles.
We also searched piles of brush and dead vegetation, hoping for snakes.
Searching under rocks for specimens
Searching a pile of brush for specimens
Mostly we found Giant centipedes (Scolopendridae).
Marissa and Caitlin try out for new occupations in case being a field herpetologist does not work out