"Lafaek Diak - The Good Crocodile" - The creation myth of Timor - Leste
"A long time ago during a severe drought in the island of Makassar, a starving crocodile
foraged and got stranded on its way. Luckily a boy from the village found the dying
crocodile and brought it back to the ocean. To return the favor, the grateful animal
offered the boy a service to carry him on the back for any journeys the boy wishes for.
After some time, the crocodile desired to devour the boy. He consulted the whale, the
tiger and the water buffalo, as well as other animals about this desire and was denounced
by them all for being greedy and ungrateful. Ashamed of his own desire, the crocodile
decided not to devour the boy but to continue travelling with him towards the east. The
crocodile grew old and realized that it would soon die. It told the boy that out of its body
a new country would arise and would belong to the kind boy and his progeny. After its
death, the crocodile's dead body grew and formed the mountainous island of Timor."
Timor - Leste´s creation myth is still firmly anchored among large parts of the Timorese population, particularly in rural communities sharing the same habitat with crocodiles. Traditional rituals and ceremonies are carried out by elders to "open the gate" for communication and appease crocodiles prior to fishing trips. In many communities, crocodile attacks are seen as a punishment for crimes against mother nature, and victims are believed to be bad people. The unique spiritual status of crocodiles in Timor - Leste impedes the implementation of common management approaches and rather, calls for tailored management and governance regimes with respect to local traditions.