Crocodile management in Timor-Leste: Drawing upon traditional ecological knowledge and cultural beliefs

Sebastian Brackhane, Grahame Webb, Flaminio M.E. Xavier, Josh Trindade, Marcal Gusmao, Peter Pechacek

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Cultural beliefs based on Timor-Leste´s creation myth “Lafaek Diak–The Good Crocodile” are anchored in the East Timorese traditional belief system lulik and involve worship of the widely distributed, but dangerous, saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). The wild saltwater crocodile population and rate of fatal attacks on people are both increasing due to conservation action. More innovative management is needed to reduce the frequency of attacks, but reverence for crocodiles constrains the management options available. We used semi-structured interviews with Timorese stakeholders (25 local authorities, 10 national experts, 15 citizens) to understand the cultural beliefs and traditional ecological knowledge underlying human-crocodile interactions, and conflict (HCC) in Timor-Leste. Interviewees knew this species was a risk (respect, fear) and its population was expanding, and had culturally determined beliefs (ceremonies, rituals) that included differentiating between local “ancestor” crocodiles and invasive “troublemakers.” Cost-effective management could integrate stakeholder groups, especially traditional elders and local knowledge holders.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)314-331
    Number of pages18
    JournalHuman Dimensions of Wildlife
    Volume24
    Issue number4
    Early online date20 May 2019
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

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