Little-known reef reveals wealth of unexpected riches, new species

…each year, and numerous dolphin and whale species are regularly encountered here — significantly boosting the marine tourism potential for the region. A likely new species of Helcogramma triplefin, camouflaged in a reef near Atauro Island. (© Conservation International/Photo by Mark Erdmann) ‘New’ fish discoveries Perhaps not surprisingly, we also found a number of fish species that appear to be new to science. The wave-washed nearshore reefs of…

Snakes on mysterious island live in trees, impregnate themselves

…e found nowhere else on Earth. (© Conservation International/photo by David Emmett) Editor’s note: In June, Conservation International (CI) conducted a biodiversity survey on and around Timor-Leste’s little-studied island of Atauro. Mark Erdmann recently blogged about the expedition’s ocean findings; today, David Emmett reports on what the group discovered on land. Lying within sight of Timor-Leste’s capital, Dili, Atauro is becoming…

Dispatch from Atauro: Search for Species Raises More Questions

…from David Emmett about a recent expedition searching for new species on the island of Atauro in the Southeast Asian country of Timor-Leste. Read previous blogs from the expedition. The Timor-Leste RAP team traveling between Atauro island and the Timorese capital of Dili. (photo courtesy of Timor-Leste RAP team) The final day of our survey somehow encapsulated everything that is wonderful about Timor and Atauro. We woke early, packed our field…

Dispatch from Atauro: Night Hikes, Bat Caves and a Trove of New Species

…currently part of a team searching for new species on the island of Atauro in the Southeast Asian country of Timor-Leste. Read previous blogs from his expedition. The CI team sets up a live trap to capture a civet to see if Atauro’s population is different from that found on Timor-Leste’s mainland. (Photo courtesy of Timor-Leste Rapid Assessment Program team) In my last post, I noted how the water supply on Atauro is rarely more…

Dispatch from Atauro: On Arid Island, Life Hinges on Forest

…is currently part of a team searching for new species on the little-studied island of Atauro in the Southeast Asian country of Timor-Leste. Read previous blogs from this expedition. The CI team explores the forested hills of Atauro Island, Timor-Leste. Besides sheltering unique wildlife, these trees help maintain the island’s limited drinking water supply. (© Conservation International/photo by David Emmett ) One of the unusual features of…

Expedition draws world’s attention to new crown jewel of marine life

…marks Atauro as its crown jewel. “My senior colleague Gerry Allen and I have done well over 10,000 dives in the Coral Triangle region, so we are used to high-diversity sites,” CI’s Mark Erdmann remarked to the Guardian. “But Atauro proved exceptionally rich.” With so many new and as-yet undiscovered species calling Atauro home, protecting the area is an absolute necessity, both for conservation and economic reasons: “There is a push for the site…

On a Tiny Island, Searching for a Spitting Cobra

…in addition to finding cool critters — is to encourage the Timorese government to designate the area as a ridge-to-reef protected area. (© Conservation International/photo by David Emmett) We wake early to catch the boat to Atauro, the island north of mainland Timor-Leste. Our goal? To conduct a species survey aimed at encouraging the Timorese government to designate the area as a ridge-to-reef protected area. Atauro is a fascinating island….

Biodiversity Survey Supports New No-take Zones in Timor-Leste

…his beautiful wrasse (Cirrhilabrus tonozukai) was previously known from Palau and Indonesian localities, including Raja Ampat, eastern Sulawesi, and Halmahera. A single male individual was photographed at Timor-Leste’s Atauro Island, which represents a significant southerly extension of the geographic range.(© Gerald Allen) In August of last year, I joined Mark Erdmann, Gerry Allen, Emre Turak and local scientists in Timor-Leste to…

Timor-Leste Fish Survey Will Help Create Sustainable Fisheries

…fe Fund, Inc. / Matthew Abbott) Fishing plays an important role on Atauru, a small island off the coast of Dili which is home to 8,000 people. Thanks to CI’s marine Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) survey in 2012, we know that Atauro has one of the highest levels of marine biodiversity throughout Timor-Leste, including several species thought to be new to science. Managing an area with such high endemic diversity has plenty of challenges. There is…

Whale, dolphin ‘superpods’ could be an economic boon for one tiny country

…s in the Indo-Pacific region and begin drafting guidelines for the sustainable development of a whale-watching industry. We also held a training workshop for local marine tourism operators, fishermen and guides from Dili and Atauro Island, which covered whale- and dolphin-watching best practices, species identification and behavior, minimizing impacts from vessel interactions and developing an on-board education program. One thing’s for sure:…