Update September 2017
I have finally incorporated all of the GPS data from the last 3 years and compiled a visual map of the nesting areas that we have been visiting. This is monumental for the project. Not only does this give us accurate placement of active nesting sites we have collected data that has never been recorded from West Papua. Up until now all GPS data listed comes from PNG (Eastern portions of New Guinea) It is very interesting to note that some of these nest sites are only located several feet apart from one an other... Stay tuned for more updates and research.
Proposed Research Topics: Simalia boeleni population study/nesting survey
Project Summary : To gather information concerning the unknown populations of this species in its native habitat and asset the potential of over collecting. This includes surveying the number of nesting areas that are utilized in one region and whether or not to assess a protective statutes for these snakes in the wild for West Papua New Guinea. Ultimately the goal is to find main influences prohibiting the accurate estimation of wild populations aside from habitat loss and commercial over-harvesting. A critical area of interest is the focus to see if these factors are effecting populations and nesting sites. The accurate Number of wild Boelen’s pythons (Simalia boeleni) is not presently known. This snake’s range of habitat is extensive and difficult to access making population estimates difficult and challenging. This project is slated for the next five years. Specimens’ GPS locations will be taken. Snakes will be marked, photographed, and released at initial sites of capture. The data that will be collected will positively allow us to build a model for re-assessing wild populations and gain a better understanding of general ranges that these snakes potentially inhabit. Additional habitat and behavioral information gathered in situ will be applied to improve routine care and reproduction efforts of captive Boelen’s pythons in zoos and private collections. Lastly, the idea of evaluating the species protected statutes will also be addressed with the information gathered from this study. As stated above the species maintains a relatively high standard of protection on the eastern portion of the island. The protective statutes should be examined in particular with the western region as well.
The key study site located in the Membramo basin is remote and secure from outside human influence and disruptions. During a trip in November 2012 we identified an area that supports 14 active Simalia boeleni nests with active snakes and annual reproduction. I plan to place trail cameras (Wild Game Innovations AAC9001-WGI-N4) outside multiple nesting areas to observe daily activity and the onset of breeding behavior. Animals will be recorded through methods of PIT tagging and genetic samples will also be taken in the form of scale clipping for future populations and genetic studies. Morphometric data will be taken through the basis of general visual observation of specimen, length, girth, weight, and head size (with and length). Images obtained from trail cameras will be used to determine daily movements and reproductive seasonal behaviors, including corresponding behavioral cues of male and female snakes (e.g., male-male combat, multiple pairings, etc.). Data loggers (Hobo Pro V2 External Temperature/Relative Humidity Logger and Onset TidbiT v2 Temperature Data Logger) will be deployed to record seasonal temperature changes and humidity levels inside and outside of the nests and areas of observed specimens
I am currently looking for financial assistance with my research project. If you are interested in getting involved with this project and would like to receive a project proposal please feel free to contact me.
Thank you !
Simalia boeleni population study/nesting survey
Update January 2018:
Was able to identify and mark yet another nest. This brings the total to 13 nest documented and recorded in the Memberamo area.
After 4-5 years of trying we finally were able to document a hatching nest in situ. The data collected should prove very useful for captive and wild husbandry.
New claimant data was taken in this new area visited. Temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, elevation, wind speed etc.
A complete water testing panel was taken near and around the nesting site.
Update November 2018:
Data loggers deployed in new site.
Transponders placed in two individual animals.
Habitat assessment done for nesting area.
November 2019 field update:
Returned from another excellent trip. Officially have a research Hut built near nesting area. Recorded two additional active nest sites bringing total to 15 observed in situ nests! Hoping for this to really help with wild population data for the future. Set up a trail camera outside of one of the occupied nests, however nothing was captured. Most likely due to the time of year when females are gravid. This really will affect anything being observed or captured on camera above ground. Deployed two new HOBO data loggers outside each new nest. Recorded additional surface temperatures of nesting habitat and temperatures during excavating the nest chambers. Very interesting data collected. Females being able to raise their body temperatures almost 10 degrees warmer then outside ambient or surface temperatures. Did a survey of plants in the area as well. As with all of my research trip all data being collected will be used to help our captive success with maintaining this animals and also help assist wild conservation for these snakes as well.
COVID -19 UPDATE
Due to the Covid -19 virus I have not been able to return to my research area this year. It is the first time in 14 years that I have not been able to be in New Guinea. Although I am not on the ground in Papua I continue to monitor events going on with my tribal family as well as support them in this difficult time.