Crocodile Attacks On The Rise In East Timor

East Timor’s growing population of saltwater crocodiles have increasingly been encountering—and attacking—humans.

AsianScientist (Jul. 13, 2018) – Scientists have found that crocodile attacks on humans are increasing in frequency in East Timor. They published their findings in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

A native of Southeast Asia and the north of Australia, saltwater crocodiles are the largest of all crocodile species, growing to lengths of six meters and weighing more than a ton. Unlike other species of crocodile, they can survive in both fresh and salt water, which enables them to cover lengthy distances by sea.

The animals have a strong territorial instinct and are extremely aggressive. They attack anything that moves in the water or near the shore—including humans. After being hunted for their leather until the 1960s, the saltwater crocodile was made a protected species in the 1970s, which successfully increased their population sizes.

In this field study, a research group led by Mr. Sebastian Brackhane of the University of Freiburg, Germany spoke to local fishermen and village elders in East Timor about incidents involving crocodiles. The researchers developed a database of crocodile attacks, which showed that since East Timor became independent from Indonesia in 2002, there have been at least 130 attacks, many of which were fatal.

Surveys of workers on an oil platform in the high seas between East Timor and Australia’s northern territory revealed that saltwater crocodiles have often been sighted in the vicinity of the platform. The researchers thus hypothesized that the animals may be migrating from Australia to East Timor.

“We believe that in many areas, the habitat in the Northern Territory of Australia has reached maximum carrying capacity, and juvenile saltwater crocodiles cross the sea to East Timor to find new habitats,” said Brackhane.

The origin of the saltwater crocodiles in East Timor has yet to be confirmed by DNA analysis.

The article can be found at: Brackhane et al. (2018) When Conservation Becomes Dangerous: Human‐Crocodile Conflict in Timor‐Leste.


Source: Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg; Photo: Pexels.
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