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

Raça caves, Lautém District

There climb up to the escarpment containing the caves was short but steep, through some fairly dense bush.

Climbing up to and down from the Raça escarpment

The view of Lake Ira Lalaro and the Paixtau Mountains alone made the climb worthwhile.

The view across the limestone plateau from the Raça escarpment, Lake Ira Lalaro is in the distance
and the Paixtau Mts are to the right

The caves had been used by freedom fighters when they were avoiding the Indonesian troops during the fight for independance. There were two entrances to the caves and both required a degree of agility when climbing down. Inside a series of chambers linked the two entrances. Bats were much in evidence, as well as guano-feeding invertebrates such as cockroaches and crickets. Marks on the walls were all that remained of a small cave swiftlet colony, wiped out when their nests were harvested for bird's-nest soup. Stalagtites lined our route through the chambers like hardened wax dripped from church candelabras.

Views of the interior of the Raça caves..
The expedition broke through a wall and the creature peered out menacingly!
Herp team members underground: (back) Naveen, Marissa, David, Hinrich; (front) Caitlin, Zito & Laca. Mark exploring for geckos.

The first herps we found were skinks of the genus Sphenomorphus, something we had not expected within the dark recesses of a cave system,and we also captured two bent-toed geckos (Cyrtodactylus sp.) to compliment the specimen obtained by Laca during his personal survey.

Forest skinks, Sphenomorphus sp.
Bent-toed gecko, Cyrtodactylus sp.