The View from Here


In Search of the False Gavial (Tomistoma)
December 19, 2008, 3:57 pm
Filed under: Adventures, Crocodilians | Tags:

This is an account of our trip to Borneo (Sarawak, Malaysia) to search for Tomistoma, the False Gavial, in 2006

"Tomistoma schlegeli"  The painting that resulted from our expedition to Borneo. See my website for purchasing prints or the original to benifit Tomsitoma research.

"Tomistoma schlegeli" The painting that resulted from our expedition to Borneo. See my website for purchasing prints or the original to benifit Tomsitoma research.

Our Trip to Bukit Sarang

In September of 2006, I traveled to the island of Borneo, to find and photograph the elusive False Gavial. Rob Steubing, herpetologist and “croc-ophile,” invited me to come to Bintulu, Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo) to get reference material for painting a Tomistoma, and to give a wildlife art workshop for local students. Rob is the president of the Tomistoma Task Force (TTF), a group of herpetologists working to conserve and study this disappearing croc species. The idea was to publish prints and make available the original for sale, to benefit the croc through the TTF. Sarawak is almost exactly on the other side of the planet from my home in Cincinnati. After 23 hours in various planes, we arrived in the surprisingly modern airport at Bintulu. After a

Tomistoma habitat, along the Mayeng River

Tomistoma habitat, along the Mayeng River

day taking care of business, we headed out to the bush and Rob’s field station at Bukit Sarang in the interior. We traveled by boat and canoe for hours, eventually running low on water as we got farther upstream. We had

Dragging the boats in low water. Watch out for croc attack!

Dragging the boats in low water. Watch out for croc attack!

to get out and drag the boats for awhile, all the while having our resident croc expert warn about Saltwater croc attacks in such conditions. Although the guy just in front of me stepped on a submerged, 2-meter long water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator), scaring the crap out of himself, we enountered no salties. At Bukit Sarang, we looked for Tomistoma day and night, both by boat and on foot in the forest. We even checked an underground river, seeing croc tracks in the mudbanks inside the caves. The idea of meeting a hungry saltwater croc in one of these dark passages was like something out of a horror movie. Despite having no luck finding crocs at Bukit Sarang, we did encounter lots of interesting stuff along the way. Eventually we got our artist_with_crocphotos of Tomistoma at Jong’s Crocodile farm outside of Kuching. The breeding adults lived in a large natural enclosure, and Rob and I were able to climb in with them to get some great shots.

john_teaching-1 Back in Bintulu, I did the art workshop for the Bintulu school district. Each school in the district chose one or two students and a teacher to attend the workshop. Some were from town, and some were from villages far upstream, making their first trip to the city. They were all great, and I did my best to give them an introduction to what I do, how I do it, and why. I had a lot of fun since they were such good students, and they treated me like a rock star.

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

los cococdrilos tomistomidos son de lo mas interesantes aca en peru tenemos solo especies fosiles de dicha familia….saludos y felicitaciones.

Comment by gustavo jara lamonte lopez

Thank you for your comments, Gustavo. Where do you find the Tomistomid fossils? What period are they from? I have been to Peru, but only in the Amazon region (Iquitos area) .. no fossils there.
Saludos, John

Comment by herps2art

OMG that is fun.. 🙂 have not try that.

Comment by Sherry




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