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

Return to Dili, Dili District

Everyone was excited to see the adult male varanid and it calmed down to handleable very quickly so everyone could have their photos taken with it. Other guests at Barry's Place came to see it, as did Barry with his two sons Marty and Mickey.

The author with the adult male monitor Zito and Mark introduce Barry and his sons to the big lizard
Ataúro monitor lizard
Varanus sp.

Catching the large Ataúro monitor lizard (Varanus sp.) was a high-point on the expedition, but it posed a small problem for us - where to house it until we could measure it, document it, take DNA samples (blood and tissue), and photograph it prior to release. Since we had already seen what these large lizards could do to chicken wire, our options were few, with stuffing it back into the trap as an absolute no-no.

Barry solved the problem by offering us the use of one of his large rainwater containers with a shallow layer of water in the bottom. This was perfect, except it raised another small problem. While it was easy to get the lizard into the container, it was not quite so easy to get it out again, when we required it. Here is a sequence of photographs from the final extraction when the lizard was taken for release and the process goes like this. Lower yourself into the container and avoid the large mouth facing upwards (cricket box useful if you have one here), avoid the whipping tail, distract the lizard's attention, grab it by the back of the neck, then by the hips and raise it out of the entrance. Then extract yourself and avoid getting bitten or whipped, but on this occasion I forgot about being kicked and the lizard used its large left hind foot to claw my lip and cheek resulting in a nice duelling scar!

Anybody in there Out you come
Avoiding the mouth Securing the tail

Both the large and small monitor lizards were then taken to the swamp by Scott, David, Laca, Zito and myself and posed on a branch for final photographs before they jumped into the water and sprinted or swam away noisily. The resultant photos are below.

Ataúro monitor lizard (large male)
Varanus sp.
Ataúro monitor lizard (juvenile)
Varanus sp.

While we were in the swamp the others were finishing packing and vacating the rooms at Barry's Place. The Berlin Nakroma ferry could be seen approaching in the distance and it gradually got closer and docked around 11:30. We were due to board at about 15:00 so there was a lot of sitting around, too long a time to waste, too short a time to go herping.

The Berlin Nakroma docks at Beloi, Ataúro Island
The team killing time The professor killing time

Eventually Hinrich and I were allowed to board the troopies and after a further wait we were allowed to reboard as passengers. I slept most of the 2 hour crossing but others watched the on-board movie Black Hawk Down (well at least it wasn't Titanic !). When we reached Dili there was another little moment of hilarity when the ferry crew discovered they had mislaid the padlock key to allow everyone through the metal door and down the gangway to the car-deck and exit. When they finally found it there was a mad dash to leave the vessel, some health and safety training in evacuation is sorely required here.

Back in Dili we dropped off Laca and Zito, who went home for the night, and then we all returned to our base, the Timor Lodge Hotel.