TIMOR-LESTE 2013

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

JAVA, INDONESIA

The flight from Dili to Bali took 1 hour 45 minutes. Arriving at Bali International Terminal, we immediately transferred to the Domestic Terminal where more delays ensued, but the students entertained themselves (and those around them) by playing patty-cake or standing in front of the giant air conditioners - yes it was very hot!

The games children play! There are a host of potential captions for this one!
Take your pick.

We settled down for a very long wait as our flight was delayed several hours but eventually our Air Asia flight boarded and we flew to Jakarta. We were pretty impressed with Air Asia, the aircraft was clean and modern, the crew young and very attractive, the food (if you purchased it - this is a budget airline) very edible, the seats fairly comfortable, and the inflight entertainment - the interactive Rocky Horror Show as we boarded and took our seats - certainly unusual (see below).

Four photographs taken looking forwards, over a period of perhaps one minute
Most theatrical and atmospheric (literally)

The flight to Jakarta took 1 hour 50 minutes and was followed by a two hour bus drive to Bogor in West Java. Eventually, at around 23:00, we reached the Lorin Hotel, Bogor.

We had come to Bogor to visit the Zoological Museum, the most important collection of its kind in Indonesia, and hopefully examine some specimens. Our tour guide seemed perplexed by our purpose and tried repeatedly to redirect us towards cultural or historical sites or eye-catching modern sky-scrapers.

We finally arrived at Widyasatwaloka - Home of Animals - although the coach driver had to ask directions at least three times before we found it, on a campus of other academic buildings in a quite park area of Bogor.

Widyasatwaloka - Home of Animals
where the MZB collections are now housed

Widasaywaloka is where the collections originally housed in the Museo Zoologicum Bogoriense (Bogor Zoological Museum) are now housed, the collection known as the Museo Zoologicum Buitenzorg during Dutch colonial times, with Bogor conveniently beginning with a 'B' and continuing the original museum acronym of MZB. This collection is of major importance for any zoologists studying the fauna of the Indo-Malay Archipelago. The other two important collections from this region are the Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie (RMNH) and the Zoologishe Museum Universiteit van Amsterdam (ZMA), now both combined into Naturalis in Leiden. Hinrich, Sven and I had already visited Naturalis to examine specimens, several times, but we had not been to Bogor before.

At Bogor I met up with an old friend, the Indonesian herpetologist Irvan Sidik who I had met some twenty years earlier at the British Museum (Natural History) and who had come to stay with me when I lived in Wolverhampton.

Mark and Irvan meet again after almost 20 years,
in front of the holotype of a new species of coelacanth

Irvan gave very kindly of his time, showing us around the Wet Collection room - the room where spirited specimens are housed ie. reptiles, amphibians, fish, and in an anteroom, invertebrates.

Irvan and Hinrich in the Wet Collection room Irvan meets the team

He also gave us space in his office area and a tray of Lesser Sunda specimens Hinrich had requested in advance. Hinrich then gave the students one of his impromptu lectures, this one on the purpose of museum collections, the different kinds of type specimens and the nomenclatural evolution of labelling - in other words, how to find your way around a collection such as this one.

In Irvan's office, festuned with Indonesian herpetological artifacts and displays, such as a stuffed false gharial, an oversized flying frog and several monitor lizards and agamid lizards
Hinrich gives an impromtu lecture on working with specimens and the purpose of museums Now over to you guys
Is it a Bent-toed gecko or a House gecko?

 

We were very interested to see the holotype of the recently described second species of Coelacanth (Latimeria menadoensis) which had been collected off Sulawesi.

Indonesian coelacanth, Latimeria menadoensis

But of course our first visit to Bogor had herpetological rather than piscatorial aims. Hinrich was interested to learn what specimens of Stegonotus (Colubridae) were housed in the collection from the Lesser Sunda Islands, Sven wanted to examine some glossy night skinks, notably the holotype of Eremiascincus mertensi, and I wanted to check the holdings for the New Guinea elapid snake genus Toxicocalamus. Initially Irvan said the collection housed no Toxicocalamus but I said I was sure there were 11 or 12 specimens from the Dutch colonial days lurking somewhere and when I went through the list of species on the wall I spotted a clue - Pseudechis staleyanus - there is no such species, but there is a Toxicocalamus stanleyanus. When we checked the shelves I found my eleven snakes and Irvan extracted them for me to examine and photograph. Sven was less lucky, although he was allowed to examine and scale-count the holotype of the skink that interested him he would need the Director's permission to photograph it, since it was a type specimen. Hinrich was too involved with the students to take more than a cursory glance at the specimens that interested him, so we all need to come back another day.

While Hinrich lectured to the students and discussed collaborations with Irvan I spent my time working through the Toxicocalamus in the collection, systematically photographing the specimen labels (especially the arcane hand-written ones dating back to when the specimens were collected) then dorsal and ventral whole snake photographs, dorsal, ventral and both lateral head views and a tail tip photograph. I now also have measurements and scale counts for all these specimens.

Six specimen jars containing eleven specimens of Toxicocalamus
A series of head view photographs I took of one of the Toxicocalamus which would enable me to accurately count and draw its head scalation later.
I did this for each of the eleven specimens of
Toxicocalamus in the collection and added dorsal and ventral body photographs, tail tip photographs and also photographs of the arcane collection labels.

Bogor was busy the day we arrived, filling up with field herpetologists. There were American research teams visiting who had been working in Sumatra and Sulawesi. Since we were done and space was limited we took our leave and headed back towards Jakarta, stopping for a meal at the halfway stage.

Back in Jakarta we checked into the Media Towers and Hotel and settled into our comfortable rooms where I spent a little time taking interesting photographs of the Jakarta skyline and traffic at night.

Everyone was exhausted but we just about managed to get to the Chinese restaurant for a meal, all except Hinrich who had work to do.

Aperture Priority f22, slow shutter speed (around 20 seconds) for some interesting effects

Most of the group went out on a mini-tour of Jakarta but I remained in the hotel to sort out my kit in readiness for the next project and to label images. From the hotel window Jakarta looked vast and bustling, and it was also raining.

 

The Jakarta skyline by day

The others had visted Old Batavia, an area containing the original old Dutch colonial buildings, but many in serious disrepair.

The old Dutch bridge The Governor's residence is now a cafe

Next stop Singapore.