TIMOR-LESTE 2012

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

Fatucahi, Manufahi District

The reason we had visited the southern coast was to spend two days herping in the Nancuro coastal forest of southern Manatuto District. We had based ourselves, as in 2011, at the Convent of St. Antonio d'Lisboa just across the Manufahi district boundary in Fatucahi. From here it was a short road drive to back to the T-junction where the Manatuto road had joined the southern coastal road, although the T-junction was actually a cross-roads because a less obvious road continued south to the Nancuro forest.

The Troopies at the Convent Convent of St. Antonio d'Lisboa

Almost immediately we encountered the frog which made this convent so interesting. On our previous visit here we had encountered the three common frogs of Timor (Asian black-spined toad, Rice-paddy frog and Striped treefrog) but we had also encountered a small microhylid frog, the Pumpkin or Bullfrog (Kaloula cf. baleata) within the ground of the convent.

The drive here was only around 200 kms, but on Timorese district roads it had taken about 10 hours including the break in Baucau. We were tired from the journey but even so it was important to take the time to process and preserve the two dead snakes, and the tick found on the racer.

Pumpkin frog
Kaloula cf. baleata
Caitlin and Sven fix the racer Tick (Acari) embedded in Lesser Sunda racer
Tick (Acari) removed from Lesser Sunda racer

One evening near the Convent Hinrich's vehicle encountered another road-kill. Closer examination revealed that this snake also had been noosed, killed and dragged onto the road. It was an appox. 2.0 m Reticulated python (Python reticulatus), a sad sight and an ignorant and wanton act of destruction.

Reticulated python (DOR)
Python reticulatus
photo: Sven Mecke
The prepping and photography area at Convent of St Antony d'Lisboa

When not prepping specimens our team members were herping in the Convent grounds and one thing they found was particularly puzzling. Under a plant pot they found a blindsnake (Ramphotyphlops braminus) and an Asian black-spined toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) - nothing unusual in that, but...

when the toad hopped the blindsnake hopped too! The blindsnake was protruding head-first from the anus of the toad. Had the blindsnake used the spine on the end of its tail to gain a purchase inside the toad and pulled itself backwards? More likely, the toad gulped down the blindsnake and, being a burrower, the snake had just kept on going until he came to daylight again. The snake was still alive but it did succumb a few hours later and both specimens were vouchered. We are still pondering the possibilities as this toad species is not documented preying on vertebrates.

Asian black-spined toad Duttaphrynus melanostictus
and Brahminy blindsnake Ramphotyphlops braminus