Victor Valley College Tropical Research Initiative
Herpetofauna of Timor-Leste
Sta Bakhita Mission, Ermera District
One of our most productive locations on the island of Timor has been the Meleotegi River near the St Bakhita Mission, Eraulo, Ermera District, about two hours drive southwest of Dili. This is the only location where we have found the Timor river frog (Limnonectes timorensis) and the Timor treefrog (Litoria everetti) and it is here we have collected a species of snake-eyed skink (Cryptoblepharus sp.nov.) that is likely to be the first new species we describe from this amazing country.
We have visited Sta Bakhita and the Meleotegi River on three previous phases:
For Phase I (dry season 2009) click here For Phase II (wet season 2010) click here
For Phase V (dry season 2011) click here
Map of Eraulo, Sta Bakhita Mission and Meleotegi River
Mouse-over for Google satellite map and click for enlarged topographic map.
The drive to "Bakhita" might not be a long one but it requires a great deal of concentration. The road is winding and potholed, and strewn with fallen trees, subsidence (both from above, depositing piles of earth and rocks on the road, and to below, depositing the road into the valley) and vehicles ranging from road-blocking trucks (often parked with a wheel-less axle resting on a log) to little motorcycles that appear and buzz around like angry bees trying to be the first to sacrifice themselves beneath our wheels. The drive this time was especially interesting because heavy rain had caused more tree and rock falls and turned much of the muddy road to soft toffee or lagoons of coffee of unknown depth. Care was required but Hinrich and I got our flock to "Bakhita" safely, with a stop enroute in the bustling town of Gleno.
The team break in Gleno
St Bakhita's from Eraulo, mission elevated on right, clinic on left on lower ground
St Josefina Bakhita,
the Ethiopian saint for whom the mission is named
The view towards Eraulo from Sta Bakhita Mission
Hinrich and I set the students to catching skinks. There are many Four-fingered skinks (Carlia sp.2) around the mission itself and since this was a genus not yet encountered on Phase VI we wanted everyone to participate. We ruled that everyone had to catch at least one skink before they could stop for refreshments. The team soon got into the swing of things, and with assistance from our experts (Caitlin, Laca and Zito) soon every member had caught a skink, and some had caught more than one. We selected a small sample to take back to Dili and the rest were returned to the mission scrubbery.
The students fan out in the ground to chaseFour-fingered skinks, Carlia sp.
Returning with the fruit of their labours
Aaren loses a skink - oops!
Even a simple 'skink hunt' is not without its moments of hilarity. Aaren lost a skink as she tried to put it into a bag and the lizard sought sanctuary in a place where none of the gentlemen could offer assistance in its recapture. Stephanie came to the rescue and the errant reptile was recovered amidst much giggling.