Earlier this year, two Spectrum zoologists, Georgia and Sam, travelled to the Pilbara region in search of the Pilbara Olive Python (POP, Liasis olivaceus barroni), a vulnerable species threatened by major fire events, feral/introduced predators and habitat clearing.
These elusive creatures are olivey brown with a pearly sheen, reach a maximum of 3.5-4 m and are typically found along watercourses, in gorges and rocky escarpments.
Over the past decade, only two other POP’s have been recorded from this particular Survey Area. For this survey, the team spent their nights spotlighting at eight different sites with the expectation of finding anything but a POP.
Each site was explored by walking up and down a drainage line to look for any signs of life. However, their first night proved fruitless, with much of their time spent questioning if every stick on the road was a snake.
The second night of the survey began the same way, with the team seeing nothing for hours and hours until they arrived at site number six of the night. This site had pools of water and adjacent rocky ledges, which made it a promising location for finding a POP. After walking around for 10 minutes, Sam couldn’t believe her own eyes: a 2 m long POP!
The team stared at it in disbelief for a moment before wrangling it into a catch bag to measure and process it. These often placid creatures are harmless and very unlikely to bite.
However, this particular one did not feel like hanging out in a bag so it took a few moments of carefully manoeuvring the rather long and determined individual. After taking some measurements, the long sought after POP was released back into the wild where it was found.
Although the team only managed to find a single POP during their survey, it was more than enough to make up for the long nights spent walking in the dark.
This experience served as a powerful reminder of the importance of conservation efforts to protect vulnerable species and also highlights the importance of keeping an eye out for creatures great and small!