“The increasing population of crocodiles in East Timor worries”, says victim of attack
Fernando Madeira, a Portuguese who lived in Macau, was bitten this Sunday by a saltwater crocodile in East Timor, escaping with his life. In a conversation with PLATAFORMA, he tells the story of the attack, other encounters with crocodiles and also calls on the authorities.
The incident occurred about 200 meters from the coast, in a coral reef area where he was with a friend fishing underwater on Sunday morning, in the Bunduras area, about 45 minutes by boat from the main beach of Baucau, Wataboo .
Everything indicated that it would be a calm underwater fishing. “We had already spoken to the fishermen and had not seen anything suspicious. There were turtles in the area (an indication that there should be no danger) and the water was clear ”.
The attack was a surprise and Fernando confesses that he prefers it that way. “Imagine what it is like to see a crocodile in front of you making an attack movement. I don’t want to have that image in my head, ”he told PLATAFORMA.
“I am not in favor of killing any animal, I am a naturalist, but something has to be done. It is very dangerous to be in bathing areas ”, he made clear.
“In Hong Kong, for example, bathing areas protected with nets were created to reduce the attacks of tiger sharks, which were recurrent. The increase in crocodile populations in East Timor is worrying. There must be mechanisms on the part of the authorities to protect people, even if it is simply a sign of danger. Fishermen, for example, need security to carry out their work ”, he explains.
However, the task is not easy to accomplish, given the beliefs of a large part of the Timorese population. In addition to the myth of the creation of the country, the crocodile island – there are many rituals, poems and other cultural manifestations that honor the ‘grandfather Lafaek’ (crocodile). There are also those who see in the attacks a kind of punishment from nature against the victims, factors that condition the authorities’ responses to the problem, according to information advanced by Lusa. “When someone disappears due to crocodile attacks, people usually make an offering and sacrifice an animal in order to have the body back, in order to perform the funeral,” said Fernando.
“You can even create tourist and protected areas where you can see these animals in their natural habitat,” he reflected.
But the situation was not always the case. Until recently, crocodiles did not represent the danger they are today. “When East Timor was under Indonesian rule, the crocodile population was controlled, now there is no surveillance of this species and, as such, they proliferate throughout the region. In addition, they are very territorial even with other crocodiles, which means they are more widespread ”.
This phenomenon does not have negative effects only for humans. According to Fernando, there are other issues to analyze. “The crocodile is a predator that has no competition. The other animals, such as the local turtle population, have decreased considerably ”, he warns.
However, Fernando Madeira assumes that there is little care and that from now on underwater fishing will be an activity that will not risk more in Timor, except in controlled environments. “It was surreal, a miracle!”
It is important to note that this was not the Portuguese’s first encounter with a crocodile. It is the third occurrence in which he dealt with the prehistoric predator. “There was a time when I went underwater fishing at night with two friends. Suddenly, an attacking crocodile passed right in the middle of us. To this day, I can’t understand how it didn’t materialize. They never fail ”.
Well, this time it did, but he let Fernando escape with his life. “There are two things that I found strange about this attack. The first was that it didn’t hit an artery, which was inexplicable luck. The second was simply to open your mouth and leave. The damage could have been much worse and even fatal. We were 200 meters from the coast, 45 minutes from the car, and there was still a 30-minute drive to the nearest hospital. I don’t know if I would have survived if it were in an artery, ”he says.
“Since I am here, it is already my third encounter with this animal. One has already entered my hostel Da Terra in the heart of Dili, ”he revealed.
He doesn’t know how the crocodile got into his hostel, but Fernando believes it may have something to do with the illegal capture of these animals. “There are many people who capture them when they are small and raise them in enclosed environments, it is horrible. I have seen situations in which they were placed in tiny tanks and cannot even grow naturally. Space does not allow them. They suffer from malnutrition and are poorly treated. Sometimes they happen to be able to escape and it gives rise to the type of situations I was subjected to in my hostel ”.
Fernando Madeira is stable, but he is not yet free from danger. Crocodiles are scavengers and have thousands of bacteria on their teeth that can develop serious infections. “I have a five-centimeter perforation in my arm and it almost reaches the bone. I had already been discharged from the hospital, but I wanted to make a second observation in Dili and they advised me to consider minor surgery to better clean the wounds ”, he explained.
“It is curious because the boat in which I went to the fishing zone has already been used to kill a crocodile. Five years ago, a 17-year-old child lost his life in a crocodile attack and this boat served to kill the animal ”. Even today, there is a dent in the crocodile that hit the boat while trying to kill it. “I only learned about this story after the attack.”
This article is available in: Português