Victor Valley College Tropical Research Initiative
Herpetofauna of Timor-Leste
Venilale, Baucau District
Just south of Baucau we encountered a road-killed snake, a juvenile Lesser Sunda racer (Coelognathus subradiatus), which we collected to either make it a voucher specimen or taking DNA samples. In the end it was considered too decomposed to be of any use, so we only took measurements. A short we captured a huge scolopendrid centipede running across the road, the curved forcepscame in very handy, these things bite!
Road-killed Lesser Sunda racer
Giant scolopendrid centipede
North of Venilale we came to the Venilale Caves, a series of tunnels Timorese villagers were forced to dig by the Japanese during World War II, for purposes unknown. The network is of a simple design, a series of tunnels just over head-height, and about twice as wide, that go straight into the soft limestone and end abruptly in a concavity, as if work halted suddenly. The 6-8 tunnels are the same design and seem to go to the same depth. Linking these tunnels is a long tunnel that runs from one to the other in an almost straight line before exiting at the end of the cliff-face.
Map of Venilale showing location of Japanese caves mouse-over to view Google Earth satmap
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At first the caves appeared life-less but a closer examination revealed a fauna similar to that of a natural cave. Invertebrates included a number of species of spider, from small orb-weavers to large Brown huntsman spiders (Heteropoda venatoria), Cave centipedes (Scutigera sp.) in crevices, long-antennaed cave-crickets (Rhaphidophidae), cockroaches (Blattaria), and moths. Although we did not see any bats there were vertebrates in the caves: Cave swiftlet (Collocalia linchi) nests clung to the ceiling, some inhabited by birds, and we also caught ten Bent-toed geckos (Cyrtodactylus sp.7).
Cave cricket (Rhaphidophoridae)
Cave cockroach (Blattaria)
Brown huntsman spider
Cave swiftlet nest
In the epiphytic vegetation outside the caves Paulo and Sven also caught two Forest skinks (Sphenomorphus sp.7) and a Four-fingered skink (Carlia sp.4).