The Indonesian government announced today, Friday, July 19, 2019, that it will ban tourism by closing Komodo Island in 2020. Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to over 5,000 Komodo lizards, often called Komodo Dragons.
Residents of this popular tourist island will be relocated. Some residents are against this closure and fear that by being relocated, they may lose their livelihoods.
The island is the main habitat of the endangered Komodo Dragon, the world’s largest lizard which grows up to 3 meters long. Tourists will still be able to observe the lizards on nearby islands that are part of Komodo National Park, namely Rinca and Padar islands.
Park spokesman Marius Ardu Jelamu of the regional secretariat of East Nusa Tenggara province said they will redesign Komodo Island into a world-class conservation zone. It is anticipated that the island will be closed in January 2020 and remain closed for a minimum of one year, possibly 2.
The regional government is setting aside funds to restore the native flora and fauna of the island and to build infrastructure that will help to protect its terrestrial and marine ecosystems. This includes not only the Komodos, but deer and buffalo as well – the main food sources for the dragons.
Poaching has caused the deer and buffalo populations to dwindle, and mass tourism is polluting the environment of the island. Further, some tourists like to provoke the dragons and bring out their aggressiveness, in some cases being bitten in the encounter.
Komodo Dragons are listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as vulnerable.