TIMOR-LESTE 2012

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

Beloi, Ataúro Island, Dili District

 

Map of Ataúro Island showing main settlements visited during Phase VI.

Mouse-over for Google satellite map and click for enlarged topographic map.

We have visited Ataúro Island on two previous phases:
For Phase II (wet season 2010) click here
For Phase IV (wet season 2011) click here

 

Ataúro fishermen



The drive to our accommodation was very short, approximately 1 km north of the Beloi jetty, past the market thriving because of the weekly ferry arrival, to Barry's Place, an Eco-Resort close to the beach. On previous visited to Ataúro we have stayed at Tua Ko'in Eco-Resort, further south at Kelapa, but it had been closed down for six-months. Barry's proved to be an excellent base for both the coastal region and Mt Manucoco, the road up into the mountains beginning just at the end of the resort compound, and this time we had our own transport - two troopies!

Looking south down the east coast of Ataúro Island from a point north of Beloi,
Mts Manucoco and Canilatuto shrouded in cloud in the background

 

Map showing localities visited during Phase VI on Ataúro.

Mouse-over map for sat map showing collection localities and click for larger version of topo map

 

 

Barry's Place on the east coast of Ataúro Island, photo taken from a promontory to the north
Views of Barry's Place
Hinrich on the verandah of the expedition's HQ, which includes the photography and specimen prepping areas Across the road from Barry's Place was also an early morning herping location

 

The beach at Barry's Place, Beloi, Ataúro Island

 

Map of Barry's Place and other localities close to Beloi
Mouse-over map for sat map showing collection localities and click for larger version of topo map

 

The resort chalets at Barry's Place were inhabited by large Tokay geckos (Gekko gecko) as well as many smaller Common house geckos (Hemidactylus frenatus) on which they preyed. These large geckos made its presence known by calling from hiding places all over the resort and occasionally appearing in the room as night, as in the case of the one below which appeared in the chalet I shared with Hinrich on the first night. Also around the resort or across the road in some coastal scrub we found the Island wolfsnake (Lycodon capucinus) and a blindsnake species, either the introduced Brahminy blindsnake (Ramphotyphlops braminus), the indigenous Timor blindsnake (R. polygrammicus), or an unrecorded or undescribed species - further examination, including some fairly finite scale counting, will be necessary to determine their true identities.

 

Tokay gecko,
Gekko gecko
Island wolfsnake
Lycodon capucinus

 

The smallest lizards on Ataúro are geckos, the largest are monitor lizards, and we were on the trail of new species of each. The gecko is the bent-toed gecko on Mt Manucoco but the monitor is a coastal species we had chased and lost in the swamp on a previous visit to the island.

Our plan had been to use Barry's Place, at the start of the Macadade road up into the mountains, as our base for several day-long excursions to Mt Manucoco and Mt Canilatutu, to search for bent-toed geckos (Cyrtodactylus sp.) but after our first trip to Anartutu village the weather closed in, bringing torrential rain to the coastal areas and fog, and one presumes also rain, to the mountains. This would have made the road and the the trails treacherous, and herpetological fieldwork both difficult and unproductive as reptiles do not relish the cold, wet conditions that we would have experienced on the slopes.

From then on we conducted coastal fieldwork, between the rains, and watched the mountains every morning, hoping for the better weather which did not come. Our attention shifted from the montane bent-toed gecko to the coastal monitor lizard.

The rain started, and how !

The rains did seem to bring in some invertebrates such as a large phasmid or praying mantis

Timor praying mantis,
Hierodula timorensis

Having chased and failed to capture monitor lizards on Ataúro on previous visits we came a little more prepared. This time we planned to build and set some live-traps baited with chicken pieces in order to obtain a specimen.

Caitlin and Scott spent hours building five funnel traps out of chicken wire held together with cable-ties (zip-locks), with internal funnels that would lead the lizards to the chicken meat through a black plastic liner tunnel which would hopefully prevent its escape until we retrieved the trap.

The boys working on a trap: (l-r) Scott, Zito, David, Justin & Laca

 

Professor Hinrich Kaiser with the monitor lizard
traps constructed by his students
Close-up of four traps

Outside the chalet shared by Hinrich and myself was a small verandah which soon became crowded with students, laboratory and photographic equipment.

The girls prepping specimens: (l-r)
Caitlin, Gloria, Aaren & Melissa

There was a lof of prepping of voucher specimens and photography to be done while some of the expedition members began a sweep of the compound, turning (and replacing) rocks, tin-sheeting, pieces of timber and other potential reptile hiding places. They turned up numerous Common house geckos (Hemidactylus frenatus) and a bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus sp.). Caitlin and Sven moved across the road into some secondary scrub where they encountered two snakes. Caitlin saw a treesnake which did not fit the description of a Timor bronzeback (Dendrelaphis inornatus timorensis) but until we capture a specimen we cannot determine what it might have been. Sven's snake was an Island wolfsnake (Lycodon capucinus) but it also evaded capture. Further searching resulted in the capture of two blindsnakes (Ramphotyphlops sp.), which appear to be very common on Ataúro, and a small stub-toed gecko (Gehyra sp.).

We also conducted a complete sweep of the compound. This included searching through a huge pile of stacked straw where eco-resort owner Barry had previously seen a Reticulated python (Python reticulatus), but our search proved fruitless.

No snakes at home today