Victor Valley College
Tropical Research Initiative
Reptile & Amphibian Survey of Timor-Leste
Phases I-X

Map of Timor-Leste

Sandwiched between Indonesia and Australia, Timor-Leste, formerly East Timor and the eastern half of the island of Timor, has experienced an extremely bloody and tumultuous past (see below) which has for centuries deterred biologists from visiting the country. Only since Independence has it become possible for researchers to conduct fieldwork in the "districts" and travel freely and without the threat of violence.


A Brief History of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
Pre-1500 Only visited by Javanese and Chinese traders
1509-1515 Portuguese arrive in eastern Timor
1568 Dutch arrive in western Timor
15th-19th C

Conflict between Portuguese and Dutch, and their Timorese allies, resulting in a division into
Dutch West Timor and Portuguese East Timor

WWII Japanese invade, Dutch resist, Portuguese neutral, Australians arrive
1949 West Timor becomes part of Indonesia after departure of Dutch
1975 Portuguese depart, brief period of independence, Indonesia invades, Balibo-Five journalists murdered
1976 East Timor declared 27th province of Indonesia, Falantil (Fretalin's military wing) resists with regular attacks on Indonesian troops and interests
1977-1999 Prolonged war of independence resulting in 100,000-200,000 Timorese dead
1999 Indonesians troops leave East Timor but pro-Indonesian militas continued massacres;
UN Australian-led InterFET peace-keeping force deployed to East Timor
1999-2002 East Timor administered by UN
2002 East Timor becomes first new country of the 21st Century


The Reptile and Amphibian Survey of Timor-Leste was initiated in 2009 as part of the Tropical Research Initiative of Victor Valley College, California. Led by Hinrich Kaiser and Mark O'Shea, we take teams of American students into the field to conduct herpetological fieldwork alongside colleagues from the National University of Timor-Leste.

When we began this survey we virtually had a blank canvas. Many of the species listed in the 19th Century literature as present within the borders of modern-day Timor-Leste, were either clearly in error or could not be verified as the only significant collections from the colonial period were completely destroyed in the Museu Bocage fire of 1978.

Since we initiated this survey we have documented almost 60 species of reptiles and amphibians, possibly 20% of which are new to science. The work continues with two phases a year in-country.

To find out more about this important herpetofaunal survey visit the various expedition report sections click on the links below:

Phase I
Phase II
Phase III
Phase IV
Phase V
Phase VI
Phase VII
Phase VIII
Published reports

Phase I: 14-31 July 2009

The Phase I team (2009) in Presidential Palace, Dili,
Dili District, Timor-Leste
click on the image to enlarge


Phase II: 29 January - 8 February 2010

The Phase II team (2010) in US Embassy, Dili,
Dili District, Timor-Leste
click on the image to enlarge


Phase III: 22 June - 9 July 2010

The Phase III team (2010) in Pante Macassar Hard Rock Cafe,
Oecusse District, Timor-Leste
click on the image to enlarge


Phase IV: 17 January - 5 February 2011

The Phase IV team (2011) on Nancuro beach,
Manatuto District, Timor-Leste
click on the image to enlarge


Phase V: 18 June - 5 July 2011

The Phase V team (2011) at Mainina sinkhole,
Lautém District, Timor-Leste
click on the image to enlarge


Phase VI: 19 January - 7 February 2012

The Phase VI team (2012) on the Meleotegi River,
Ermera District, Timor-Leste
click on the image to enlarge


Phase VII: 19 June - 10 July 2012

The Phase VII team (2012) at TLH, Dili,
Dili District, Timor-Leste
click on the image to enlarge


Phase VIII: 19 June - 01 July 2013

The Phase VIII team (2013)
with Ambassador Fergin (third from right),
staff and guests at the US Embassy,
Dili District, Timor-Leste
on July 4th
click on the image to enlarge


Phases IX & X: 26 June - 13 August 2014


Download the Published Survey Reports and Papers here:

Communications from the Tropical Research Initiative of Victor Valley College

No.1 Kaiser et al 2009 Status report on Crocodylus porosus and human-crocodile
interactions in Timor-Leste.
published in IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group Newsletter 28(3):12-14.

No.2 Kaiser et al 2010 A widely traveled turtle, Mauremys reevesii in Timor-Leste.
published in Herpetology Notes 3:93-96.

No.3 Goldberg, Bursey & Kaiser 2010 First occurrence of Spargana
(Cestoda: Diphyllobathoriidae) in the snakes,
Cryptelytrops insularis
(Viperidae) and
Dendrelaphis inornatus timorensis
(Colubridae) from Timor-Leste.

published in Hamadryad 35(1):104-109.

No.4 Kaiser et al 2011 The herpetofauna of Timor-Leste a first report.
published in ZooKeys 109:19-86.
(Report on Phase I 2009)

No.5 Kaiser, O’Shea & Kaiser 2014 Amphibians of Timor-Leste:
a small fauna under pressure
published in Heatwole H. & I. Das (eds.)
Conservation Biology of Amphibians of Asia:
Status of Conservation and decline of Amphibians: Eastern Hemisphere.

Natural History Publications (Borneo), Kota Kinabalu. xiv+382.

No.6 Sanchez et al 2012 First report on the herpetofauna of the Oecusse District,
an exclave of Timor-Leste
published in Herpetology Notes 5:137-149.

No.7 Kaiser et al 2013 Conservation Education in a post-conflict country:
Five herpetological case studies in Timor-Leste
published in Salamandra 49:74-86.

No.8 Kaiser, Soares & O'Shea 2011 New Beginnings - A first report on frog research
in Timor-Leste.
published in Frog Log (99):44-45.

No.9 O'Shea et al 2012 First Update to Herpetofaunal Records from Timor-Leste.
published in Asian Herpetological Research 3:114-126.
(Report on Phases II & III 2010)

No.10 O'Shea & Kaiser 2013 Working with a Full Deck:
The use of picture cards in herpetological surveys of Timor-Leste.
published in Herpetological Review 44:68-76.

No.11 O'Shea, Kathriner, Mecke, Sanchez & Kaiser 2013 'Fantastic Voyage’:
a live blindsnake (Ramphotyphlops braminus) journeys through the
gastrointestinal system of a toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus).
published in Herpetology Notes 6:467-470.

No.12 Kaiser et al 2013 First Report on the Herpetofauna of Ataúro Island, Timor-Leste.
published in Check List 9:752-762.

No.13 Kathriner, Bauer, O’Shea, Sanchez & Kaiser 2014
Hiding in plain sight: a new species of
bent-toed gecko (Gekkonidae, Cyrtodactylus)
from West Timor,
collected by Malcolm Smith in 1924
published in Zootaxa 3990(4):555-568.

No.14 Kathriner, O’Shea, & Kaiser 2014
Re-examination of Hemidactylus tenkatei van Lidth de Jeude, 1895:
Populations from Timor provide insight into the taxonomy
of the H. brookii Gray, 1845 complex (Squamata: Gekkonidae
published in Zootaxa 3887(5):583-599.

No.15 O'Shea, Sanchez, Kathriner, Mecke, Lopes Carvalho, Varela Ribeiro,
Afranio Soares, Lemos de Araujo & Kaiser 2015
Herpetological Diversity of Timor-Leste:
Updates and a Review of Species Distributions
published in Asian Herpetological Research 6(2):73-131.

15a. Kaiser, Tighe & O'Shea 2015
Corrigendum to the Article Herpetological Diversity of Timor-Leste:
Updates and a Review of Species Distributions, by O’Shea et al. (2015).

published in Asian Herpetological Research 6(3):245.

No.17 Mecke, Kieckbusch, Graf, Beck, O’Shea & Kaiser 2016
First captive breeding of a night skink (Scincidae: Eremiascincus)
from Timor-Leste, Lesser Sunda Islands,
with remarks on the reproductive biology of the genus.

published in Salamandra 52(2):178-188.

No.18 Mecke, Kieckbusch, Schuster, Ernst, O’Shea , Rödel, Köhler, Grillitsch, Köhler,
Haas, Hallermann & Kaiser 2014
Review risks before eradicating toads
published in Nature 511:534.

No.19 Döring, Mecke, Mader & Kaiser 2016
A proposed optimal incision method to obtain gut contents from
preserved anurans.

published in Amphibia-Reptilia 37(4):437-440.

No.20 Martin, Harrison, Kaiser & O’Shea 2015
Geographic Distribution: Cryptoblepharus cf. schlegelianus
(Timor North Coast Snake-eyed Skink) Timor-Leste.

published in Herpetological Review 46(4):568.

No.21 Döring, Mecke, Kieckbusch, O'Shea & Kaiser
Food spectrum analysis of the Asian toad,
Duttaphrynus melanostictus (Schneider, 1799)
(Anura: Bufonidae), from Timor Island, Wallacea.

published in Journal of Natural History

No.22 Rösler & Kaiser 2016
Male secondary sexual characteristics of the gecko
Cyrtodactylus celatus Kathriner et al., 2014
from Timor Island.

published in Spixiana 39:125-129.

No.23 Kaiser & O'Shea 2021
Skyfall#- an extreme case of male-male aggression in Tokay Geckos
(Gekkonidae: Gekko gecko) on Atauro Island, Timor-Leste.

Herpetology Notes 13:969-971.

No.24 Kaiser, Kaiser, Mecke & O'Shea 2021
A new species of Stegonotus (Serpentes, Colubridae) from the
remnant coastal forests of southern Timor-Leste.

Zootaxa 5027(4):489-514.


In Press:

In Prep:

No.16 Kaiser, Kaiser & O’Shea A syntype reassigned: the smallest syntype
of Hemidactylus tenkatei van Lidth de Jeude, 1895 represents a new species
of bent-toed gecko (Squamata, Gekkonidae, Cyrtodactylus)
from Roti Island, Indonesia.

Several papers including the descriptions of a number of new species


Additional pdfs will be added as the papers are published

If you have difficulty downloading the pdfs above
please email




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