Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

An analysis of recent saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) attacks in Timor-Leste and consequences for management and conservation

Brandon M. Sideleau A E , Karen S. Edyvane B C and Adam R. C. Britton C D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A California State University Channel Islands, 1 University Drive, Camarillo, CA 93012, USA.

B National University of Timor-Leste, Rua Jacinto Cândido, Dili, Timor-Leste.

C Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Ellengowan Drive, Casuarina, NT 0810, Australia.

D Big Gecko Crocodilian Research, PO Box 353, Humpty Doo, NT 0836, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: bsideleau@gmail.com

Marine and Freshwater Research 68(5) 801-809 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF15354
Submitted: 15 September 2015  Accepted: 29 April 2016   Published: 18 July 2016

Abstract

Saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) are potentially dangerous to humans, yet they have major cultural value to many people in Timor-Leste. Recent increases in attack risk are influencing traditional attitudes, threatening culls of remaining wild crocodile populations. To understand patterns that may assist mitigation, we compiled attack records for the period of April 2007 to April 2014, using the CrocBITE online database. Recorded attacks (n = 45) showed a high fatality rate (82.2%), the majority (77.8%) being recorded since 2010. The highest proportion of attacks (46.7%) occurred in southern coastal wetlands suited to crocodiles, areas representing major sources of food, livelihoods and ecosystem services (i.e. fisheries, timber, coastal protection) for locals. Subsistence fishing posed the highest attack risk, particularly from September to February when food security is low. Attacks matched gender roles (most victims were males, the primary fishers) and demographic patterns (teenagers, the fastest growth group, comprised the highest proportion). Predicted increases in food insecurity, fishing activities, coastal impacts and rising human and crocodile populations pose worrying implications for human–crocodile conflict. We recommend essential baseline surveys enabling meaningful management decisions, and suggest that tailored management and educational awareness based on proven existing models could substantially mitigate attack risk while remaining compatible with traditional Timorese attitudes towards crocodiles.

Additional keywords: human–crocodile conflict, mitigation.


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