Indonesian Tourism authorities have done an about-turn and will not close Komodo Island – home of the dragons – to preserve the area’s environment. On Monday Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia’s environment and forestry minister, reversed the decision, saying that the Komodo dragons living on the island were not under threat. The Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs has decided to restrict the number of tourists visiting the island, seeking to strike a balance between conservation and raking in tourist dollars.
Tourists wanting to visit the Komodo Island and other islands around it will have to apply for a premium membership card that will be valid for one year. Without the card, you can only visit smaller islands inhabited by the Komodo dragons.
The number of Komodo dragons on Komodo Island during the past five year’s observations has been relatively stable, between 2,400-3,000. There is no threat of decline. The latest news follows a detailed survey of the island, which discovered that the park’s Komodo dragon population is currently at 2,897 individual animals, with the largest population – totalling 1,727 – on Komodo Island itself.
It was earlier claimed that an increasing number of tourists were affecting the animals’ mating habits. There were also concerns about poachers targeting Komodo dragons and deer, their main prey. Although the ban was scrapped, the environment ministry said that changes will still occur around Komodo Island.
Meanwhile, over the past five years, tourism arrivals to the national park experience a significant improve the increase, has impacted the growth in business sectors linked to tourism in Labuan Bajo, such as hotels, transportation, tour operators. There are currently 84 accommodations, 72 locations for culinary facilities, sea transportations, 67 tourist guides, 120 souvenir stalls, and Komodo Sculptors.
The Komodo dragon, which can grow up to three metres long, kills its prey by biting it and infecting it with venomous saliva. It then lets the animal bleed to death. Much is still being learned about the ancient lizard, which was only discovered by Europeans in the early 20th century.
Indonesia’s environment ministry said that Komodo Island can still expect changes to be made. According to the latest plans, a new dragon research centre is slated to open soon, and the ministry has also promised to rejuvenate other tourist spots in the area.
Komodo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in East Nusa Tenggara and the only natural home of the Komodo dragon; the world’s largest living lizard. In 2018 more than 176,000 tourists visited the area, leading to concerns about over-tourism affecting and kicking off a debate about the best way to manage the area. The park includes other popular tourism hot spots such as Rinca Island, Padar Island, and more than 20 smaller islands.
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