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

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
Coelognathus subradiatus
Giant scolopendrid centipede
Scolopendra sp.

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
click to view large topomap


Venilale Caves

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
Heteropoda venatoria
Cave centipede
Sleeping moth
Cave swiftlet nest
Collocalia linchi
Bent-toed gecko
Cyrtodactylus sp.7


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).

Four-fingered skink
Carlia sp.4
Forest skink
Sphenomorphus sp.7