Lee Grismer returns from pirate hideout, mountaintop with new geckos, 100+ specimens
Herpetologist Lee Grismer arrived at a remote island in the Indian Ocean earlier this month to conduct field research and find new species of reptiles and amphibians.
Herpetologist Lee Grismer arrived at a remote island in the Indian Ocean earlier this month to conduct field research and find new species of reptiles and amphibians. He was prepared to deal with modern-day pirates and their weapons. But the group of armed men he came across on the island allowed him and his colleagues safe passage once he identified himself as a professor and held forth a poisonous fanged viper, which he had brought along for negotiating purposes.
Grismer and three researchers from the Science University of Malaysia and the National University of Malaysia arrived on the island on March 23. Over the next two days, the team collected about 30 specimens of lizard and snakes, some of which appear to be new species.
On another leg of their journey, the researchers headed for the top of a 6,000-foot mountain on the mainland. Initially with the aid of native villagers, they climbed straight up for three days. The villagers accompanied the group only until dark and then refused to go further, fearing an encounter with the Bunian fairy, a sort of ghost they believe will lead them to their deaths in the darkness. The group lost the trail a couple of times and Grismer hacked tick marks in trees with his machete so they could find their way back.
Once on top of the mountain peak, one of the highest in the Banjaran Titiwangsa mountain range, Grismer found crawling on the underside of a fallen, moss-covered tree, two geckos with broad black bands edged in brilliant yellow. He believes they are new to the modern world. He returned with the live creatures and will work on verifying their identification and publication as a new species.
Grismer also returned with plastic tubs of more than 100 specimens of snakes, frogs, geckos and lizards. They include a flying frog with bright orange front feet and bright yellow hind feet, and a flying gecko with side skin flaps that flair out when the creature jumps to help it glide through the air.
Additionally, during the first week of March, German publisher Edition Chimaira released Grismer’s book, “Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Seribuat Archipelago, Peninsular Malaysia.” The book, which took seven years to compile, includes many photos taken by Grismer and as well as student research by his La Sierra classes between 2001 and 2005. In June, Edition Chimaira is planning to release another book by Grismer, a milestone work 15 years in the making that includes 650 of his color photographs. The book is titled “Lizards of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and their Adjacent Archipelagos.”