The two scientists, crammed in the back of a sweltering car, had come a long way hoping to encounter what most people try to avoid: man-eating crocodiles.

Yusuke Fukuda and Sam Banks, biologists from Australia, travelled in March to East Timor, one of the world's least developed countries, to investigate what has become a deadly national mystery: Why are so many Timorese being killed by crocodiles?

Crocodile attacks here have increased twentyfold in the past decade, numbering at least one death a month in a country of 1.2 million people.

"We became concerned after many people were taken by crocodiles

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