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Target Species: New Guinea small-eyed snake, Micropechis ikaheka
Location: Western Province & Kar Kar Island, Madang Province, Papua New Guinea
Director: Jon Stephens

Location: Madang Province, northeast Papua New Guinea.

Mission Statement:

Mark O’Shea has been visiting Papua New Guinea and studying its herpetofauna (reptile and amphibian fauna) since 1986. He has a particular interest in the snakes of PNG, the eastern half of the second largest island in the world, and especially the venomous snakes, and he wrote a book on the subject. The primary aim of Mark’s previous visits to PNG has been to capture the species responsible for killing people and extract their venom for analysis, hopefully leading towards a better treatment for snakebite victims. One snake recently implicated in snakebite fatalities is the poorly known New Guinea small-eyed or Ikaheka snake. This highly venomous snake poses a serious risk to plantation workers on the volcanic island of Kar Kar off the northeast coast of Madang Province. Mark has visited Kar Kar several times in the past for the purpose of obtaining small-eyed snake venom and discovered that reptiles, including snakes, have taken great advantage of the discarded piles of coconut husks left by plantation workers from the copra industry. But before Mark returns to Kar Kar Island he travels to Kunini village in Western Province, a village he last visited in 14 years earlier where he caught his first Papuan blacksnake, Pseudechis papuanus, another highly venomous PNG snake. This was also where he was given the Motu name of Gaigai Tauna, ‘the magic man with power over snakes’.

The Small-eyed snake (Micropechis ikaheka) is a secretive, nocturnal and highly venomous snake that poses a serious threat the plantation workers working barefoot.

Species recorded during 'The Magic Man'

Species Common Name
Bufo marinus Cane toad
Platymantis papuensis papuensis Papuan direct-breeding frog
Eretmochelys imbricata bissa Pacific hawksbill sea turtle
Gekko vittatus Palm gecko
Lepidodactylus lugubris Mourning gecko
Nactus pelagicus Pelagic gecko
Carlia fusca Brown four-fingered skink
Emoia caeruleocauda Pacific blue-tailed skink
Emoia sp. C (PNG) (unidentified emoid skink)
Emoia sp. D (PNG) (unidentified emoid skink)
Emoia sp. E (PNG) (unidentified emoid skink)
Eugongylus rufescens Brown sheen skink
Lamprolepis smaragdina Emerald treeskink
Sphenomorphus solomonis Solomons skink
Sphenomorphus wolfi Wolf's skink
Tribolonotus gracilis Crocodile skink
Candoia aspera schmidti New Guinea ground boa
Candoia carinata carinata New Guinea tree boa
Boiga irregularis Brown treesnake
Stegonotus modestus Northern ground snake
Stegonotus parvus Common ground snake
Acanthophis praelongus Northern death adder
Demansia vestigata New Guinea whipsnake
Micropechis ikaheka New Guinea small-eyed snake
Pseudechis papuanus Papuan blacksnake

Location: Kar Kar Island is an occasionally active volcanic island in a string of such islands off the Madang coast.


A view of Kar Kar Island from mainland Madang at Malolo.



Small-eyed snakes inhabit discarded piles of coconut husks.



The Crocodile skink (Tribolonotus gracilis), a strange inhabitant of coconut husk piles.



At last Mark O’Shea manages to capture a Small-eyed snake (Micropechis ikaheka) in a coconut husk pile.



The final tally, O’Shea with a pair of Small-eyed or Ikaheka snakes.



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