Human-crocodile conflict in Timor-Leste: attack characteristics and management implications
Honours Bachelor of Environmental Management
DisciplineNatural Resources Management
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Timor-Leste is a relatively new developing nation, having gained its independence from Indonesia in 2002. The people of this country have a traditional belief system in which the saltwater crocodile, Crocodylus porosus, forms the basis of their creation myth and thus holds great cultural value. As the populations of both humans and crocodiles on the island grow, there have been increasing occurrences of human-crocodile conflict (HCC) throughout the country. Due to the unique situation in Timor-Leste, normal management practices for HCC are not directly applicable. As a result, this country requires specific considerations for dealing with this problem while remaining sensitive to cultural values. This paper aims to discuss characteristics of human-crocodile conflict in Timor-Leste and recommend strategies for management. Conflict records from 2007-2021 were collected from the online database, CrocBITE, and attack characteristics and locations were analysed. Areas of concern due to high conflict rates are Tutuala and Lake Ira Lalaro of Lautem municipality, Suai of Cova Lima municipality, and Viqueque of Viqueque municipality. Attack hotspots followed core crocodile habitat distribution. Analysis of conflict characteristics determined that males (84%), subsistence fishers (73%) and youth below the age of 20 (43%) were the people most at risk of attack, with most conflicts (70%) resulting in a fatality. Age, activity, and water body had many cases in which these characteristics were unknown, with 32, 23, and 16 respectively. Most incidents occurred at ocean or beaches (32%), although incidents in rivers (23%) and lakes or ponds (23%) were common. Incidents peaked in the months of October to April, the warmer and wetter months, in accordance with crocodile activity levels. Crocodile size information was unavailable for most cases. Using information analysed here and existing literature, recommendations to help solve this problem were made, such as the use of traditional knowledge and education, establishment of economic incentives, genetic and migration pattern studies, and the integration of the traditional management system, Tara Bandu.