TIMOR-LESTE 2013

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

Dili, Dili District

The Meleotegi River trip was the last field herping day of Phase VIII. From here it is a matter of finishing all photography, specimen preparation, data logging and sorting, cleaning and packing of equipment to be left here at the TLH for Phase IX in summer 2014.


Part of the team doing final specimen preparation
(l-r) Franziska, Sven, Britta and Julia

All parasites are photographed and fixed for later identification. The tiny ticks found on a Four-fingered skink (Carlia sp.) could be photographed in detail (dorsal and ventral) with the Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens.

 

Ticks on a Four-fingered skink, Carlia sp.
and in close up, dorsal and ventral

Fieldworkers are used to slumming it, in torn shorts, dirty shirts and boots or sandals, but occasionally even the grimy field herpers have to tidy up and freshen up to go and meet diplomats and other VIPs. Our final day in Dili was such a day, we had two such visits, and the first one was quite formal, and even the smartly turned-out band of dedicated field herpers almost did not gain entrance due to some of the team wearing (clean) shorts and sandals. Admittedly it was the male team members who let the side down, the girls were immaculate and probably grateful for a chance to dress up after weeks of dressing down.

The first appointment of the day was at the Timor-Leste Ministry of Foreign Affairs and it was here that eagle-eyed security guards almost had apoplexy at the sight of shorts and sandals on the premises.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dili

Smooth talking and ever diplomatic, Hinrich sorted the problem out and we were allowed in to meet Deputy Foreign Minister Constancio Pinto. Minister Pinto has been very helpful to the project, even before it began in 2009, and Hinrich wanted to present him with a gift, a solar-powered, slowly spinning Globe.

Hinrich Kaiser presents Deputy Minister Pinto with the Globe One of the two Globes awarded

After giving generously of his time Minister Pinto agreed to pose for photographs with the team and then we departed. Sadly Paulo, a valued member of our Phase VIII team, was unable to make the occasion but Laca was there to represent our important Timorese contingent.

The team with Foreign Minister Pinto (4th from right) in his office

After the visit to the Foreign Ministry we returned to TLH to pack and complete the expedition winding-down phase. There was also some shopping to be done.

Then in the evening we set out for the US Embassy to meet with Ambassador Fergin and other Embassy officials and visitors. We have been to the Embassy at the end of several phases of this project and are always made very welcome. Ambassador Fergin had lined up a barbeque with American dishes to give her compatriots and visitors a taste of the United States - the chocolate brownies went down well with our students.

We had a very pleasant evening, the Ambassador and her colleague Jeff Borenstein are already very conversant with our project. The "adult table" had a lot to discuss! Then we all posed in front of the American flag (4th July is almost upon us) and then in front of a frieze of the American West.

 

Ambassador Fergin with members of the reptile and amphibian survey team and US Embassy staff and visitors
in front of the US flag
Ambassador Fergin 5th from left

 

and in front of the frieze of the American West
Ambassador Fergin 3rd from right

The following morning we completed our personal packing and also put all the expedition field kit back in the container at TLH where we store it between phases, down-hired the final Troopie and left for the airport (fortunately only 5 minutes away) to check in around 11:30. Our flight was delayed around an hour and a half, so instead of departing at 13:30 we left Dili for Denpasar, Bali on our Sriwijaya Air flight closer to 15:00, at around the same time a Merpati flight was boarding for the same destination. Former Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta was in Business Class. He has been a long time friend of the project who gave us audiences at the termination of three of the previous phases, including an invitation to dinner at his home. Hinrich went forward to present our compliments.

Boarding the Sriwijaya Air flight from Dili to Bali with the Merpati flight also boarding astern

From Bali we would connect to Jakarta, Java.