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

Meleotegi River, Ermera District

Our guide on the Meleotegi was Sisto Madera, a local chefe de aldeia. We first trekked to an area of coffee-forest on one of the high banks above the river. Here rotting tree-trunks provided an excellent habitat for at least two species of Forest skinks of the genus Sphenomorphus. Instead we found two Night skinks, both from genus Eremiascincus, one the Timor night skink (Eremiascincustimorensis), the an undescribed species (Eremiascincus sp.3), as well as a large House centipede (Scutigera sp.).

Sisto Madera on the Meleotegi foot-bridge
with is visible on Google Earth
Coffee-forest above the river
Riverine bamboo with coffee-forest on the slopes Caitlin & Andrew chasing skinks in the fallen trees near the coffee-forest
Timor night skink
Eremiascincus timorensis
heavily-built specimen
Timor night skink
Eremiascincus timorensis
more gracile specimen
Night skink
Eremiascincus sp.3
Scutigerid centipede
Scutigera sp.
the 'fangs' are actually modified legs so centipedes sting rather than bite


Back on the river we encountered a pile of coffee beans moulded together as if a piece of a nut-bar. Nearby were similar piles, all positioned on top of rocks. This was kafé-laku, the most expensive and rarest form of coffee in the world (aka Kopi Luwak in Bahasa Indonesian), which sells for between $160-260 per pound and was featured memorably in the movie The Bucket List. This coffee is not harvested from the trees but from the ground because the piles of beans are actually the droppings of introduced Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). This is "poop coffee"! With the help of Sisto we quickly collected about a pound of the stuff.

Sisto with some kafé-laku on a riverine rock Kafé-laku in close-up, like a nut bar!

After this amusing diversion we got back to some serious herping. Sven and I returned downstream to search for skinks in some rock piles beside the river while the others continued to herp around boulders up-stream. Sven and I toiled accompanied by a ring of locals and Sisto, chattering away in Tetum. Presumably he was telling his friends what the crazy malae were up to. There was particular excitement when another scutigerid centipede was uncovered, so I let that run over my hands to impress them. They were also excited when we caught two more Timor night skinks, and amused that I wanted to photograph a Land planarian (or tropical flatworm) (Bipalium kewense)and a curious insect larva which turned out to be the larvae of a Firefly (family Lampyridae).

The Meleotegi River
A rock pile - worth searching
Land planarian
Bipalium kewense
Firefly larvae

Andrew and Hinrich failed to capture a Forest skink, but Caitlin caught a species we currently know as Sphenomorphus sp.4, a species we only knew previously from a single specimen captured during Phase I in 2009, also on the Meleotegi River. They had also found a rock pool of tadpoles which may be either from the treefrog or the river frog but certainly not the Asian black-spined toad, nor the Rice-paddy frog (Fejervarya sp.) which was found nearby - we already recognise the tadpoles of both those species. Ten tadpoles were collected for examination of mouth-parts and metamorphosis.

Andrew examines a tadpole in the rock pool Hundreds of tadpoles of treefrog or river frog?
Rice-paddy frog
Fejervarya sp.
Forest skink
Sphenomorphus sp.4

After that it was back to the TLH in Dili.