TIMOR-LESTE 2013

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

Dili to Meleotegi River, Ermera District

One of the most productive and diverse locations in Timor-Leste has consistently been the Meleotegi River, near the Sta Bakhita Mission, Eraulo, Ermera District. We have found many species there including six species of skinks, five of the six amphibians known for the country, also geckos, but strangely few snakes (only a single blindsnake so far). Several of the taxa we have found on the Meleotegi we have found nowhere else in Timor-Leste. It is always interesting with its combination of microhabitats, from riverine rock piles to coffee-forest.

We have visited Sta Bakhita and the Meleotegi River on four 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
For Phase VI (wet season 2011) click here
For Phase VII (dry season 2011) click here

A visit to the Meleotegi River was always on the cards for Phase VIII but it involves a two-hour drive south on shocking roads made worse by a combination of heavy rain and big trucks - there are water-filled potholes which can accommodate an entire Troopie up the the level of the running boards. We needed to take both vehicles but Hinrich was still not well enough to participate in fieldwork, let alone drive the tortuous route to the Meleotegi. The solution was to ask our Dili-based friend Anders Hofstee to drive Hinrich's Troopie. Another advantage of having the affable Anders along was that he used to work at the Sta Bakhita Mission, he speaks fluent Tetum (the language of Timor, along with Portuguese and Bahasa) and he knows everyone in Eraulo, and everyone knows him. I had already called him and he has said "Yes" but we need an early start to get there: 08:30.

Stop me and buy one!
a shop keeper heading home with his wares

Mark and Anders Hofstee at Gleno,
Franziska looks on

We usually stop of a short break at the town of Gleno which distance-wise is almost at Eraulo being located only about 8-9 km north but time-wise it is the halfway point because the final few kms over the last ridge and into Eraulo take a good hour to accomplish. Upon arrival Anders made contact with the Chefe de Suco's wife for permission to go onto the Meleotegi River (the Chefe was away from Eraulo). Two of the villagers came with us onto the river.