TIMOR-LESTE 2013

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

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA

My original flight had been due to arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 06:20 on 14 June, a short while before the American contingent arrived from Los Angeles, Tokyo and Singapore, but in the event their final leg, the Malaysia Airlines flight from Singapore, was also delayed so Hinrich was a the baggage carousel when I arrived to pick up my bags - it was perfect timing. The German contingent led by Sven were not due until 14:20, arriving from Frankfurt and then Doha on Qatar Airways.

Once everyone had arrived and freshened up at our hotel, the Radius International in KL, we met in Hinrich's suite for an ice-breaker introduction and a briefing. The international team, comprising five from the US, three from Germany and myself from the UK, is listed here.

The Reptile and Amphibian Survey of Timor-Leste is now in its fifth year and the team above were about to embark on Phase VIII, but before we arrived in Dili, capital of Timor-Leste, Hinrich had set up four days of jungle acclimatization and cultural experiences in Malaysia and Indonesia. This was the second time we had visited Kuala Lumpur enroute Timor-Leste, the previous occasion being on the lead up to Phase VI.

For background on the Reptile and Amphibian Survey of Timor-Leste click here.
For full reports on Phases I-VII click here.

The late afternoon and evening were lighweight, to allow folks to acclimatize, and consisted of a short walk to the mall followed by a fruit-tasting session. Rambutan, mangosteen, dragon fruit, and of course the famous (infamous) spiky durian, beloved of orang-utans, were on the menu. This last really is an acquired taste. It smells like an open sewer (you smell the durian stand before it comes into view and many hotels have signs banning their entry) and it certainly doesn't taste like it looks - onion flavoured ice-cream might be a good description.

We had dinner at a street-side restaurant, traditional Malaysian curry dishes.

You smell the durian stand before you see it Differing reactions to the durian
Our team take dinner at a street-side restaurant
(l-r around table) Britta, Franziska, Hinrich, Sven, Claudia, Julia, Kevin & Jay

After dinner we went up the KL Tower and took photographs of the twin towers of the Petronas Towers and looked back towards the Radius International.

View of the Petronas Towers from the KL Tower The Radius International Hotel (center)
from the KL Tower

On our first full day in Malaysia we visited the Templer Park, an area of ancient pristine rainforest some 135 million years old. This was to be a first introduction to rainforest conditions and life for the new members of the team, and the first wildlife encounter consisted of Long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) in the carpark. We then set off to walk along a paved road which became a track that skirted a stream as we headed further into the rainforest.

Along the way we encountered a diverse array of rainforest denizens, each of which was captured, if possible, and introduced to the team by Hinrich, Sven or myself.

At the end of the 2.5 km track was a waterfall where the students paddled and cooled down and where we photographed some of our captures before release on the way back to the vehicle.

Hinrich introduced the team to the
Templer Park rainforest
Stopping to examine a rainforest denizen
The trail was wide and easy to walk
as it followed the stream back to the waterfall
The waterfall at the end of the 2.5 km track

On our 2.5 km trek to the waterfall we encounted three amphibians and two reptiles, all along the periphery of the stream. The frogs comprised a Rivulet frog (Limnonectes laticeps), a newly metamorphosed Lesser stream toad (Ingerophrynus parvus), both on the ground, and several White-lipped frogs (Hylarana chalconota) resting on leaves along the stream edge.

The two lizards sighted were the Common sun skink (Eutropis cf. multifasciata), numerous specimens of which were encountered in the sun spots on the trail, but which evaded capture, and the Dusky earless agama (Aphaniotis fusca), an arboreal and cryptic lizard found pressed against the slender branches of streamside trees.

 

Rivulet frog, Limnonectes laticeps
Lesser stream toad, Ingerophrynus parvus
White-lipped frog, Hylarana chalconota
Sun skink, Eutropis cf. multifasciata
Dusky earless agama, Aphaniotis fusca

We also encountered a few interesting rainforest invertebrates, most of which will have to wait to be more formally identified to genus or species. These included both a flat millipede, which coiled into an armadillo-like coil and refused to emerge again for photographs, and a huge 14 cm cyanide-emitting snake millipede. A scorpionid scorpion, threating in posture but probably not very venomous, also put in an appearance, as did both large ants and termites.

Giant Malaysian forest ants (Camponotus gigas) are amongst the world's largest and one of our specimens measured a good 3 cm. The soldier termite announced its presence by using its powerful jaws to slit Hinrich's finger, making a surprisingly large wound and drawing blood and a yelp in the process.

Flat millipede rolled into a ball
14 cm snake millipede on the move
A slender bark scorpion (Scorpionidae)
A soldier termite with powerful jaws
A 3-cm individual of the Giant Malaysian forest ant
Camponotus gigas

The first day was completed by two cultural visits, to the Batu Caves Hindu shrine and the Thean Hou temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. This year is the Year of the Snake so hopefully that will bring our expedition good luck in the weeks to come.

Batu Caves hindu shrine
Buddhist temple