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Indonesian Island could be closed to prevent Komodo dragon smuggling

Mass tourism is affecting the island which is home to some 2,300 giant, carnivorous dragons.

Easter at ZSL London Zoo Source: Yui Mok/PA Images

INDONESIA MAY TEMPORARILY close an island to prevent attempts to smuggle the world’s biggest lizard – the Komodo dragon – off the island.

The proposed closure – still awaiting central government approval – would start from 2020 but does not apply to nearby islands where the giant carnivores are also found, the local tourism agency has said.

Thousands of tourists descend annually on the cluster of islands in the eastern part of the archipelago nation – the only place in the world where Komodo dragons can be seen in their natural habitat. 

Komodo Island is home to around 2,300 dragons, which can grow to around three metres – 10 feet in length. An adult typically weighs between 70 and 90 kilograms.

“Mass tourism is already happening on Komodo Island. It is really disturbing,” local tourism agency head Marius Ardu Jelamu has said. 

“When there are too many tourists in sensitive areas like Komodo National Park, the dragons can be adversely affected,” he added.

Capture Komodo Island Source: GoogleMaps

Jakarta has agreed in principle to temporarily close the national park, Jelamu said. During the closure, conservationists plan to work to rehabilitate endemic plants and boost the number of deer, boars and other natural prey.

“We want Komodo Island to be like the Galapagos islands. So we need to rehabilitate the flora and fauna,” said Jelamu. 

The plan includes tighter visitor quotas and a new ticketing system requiring tourists to book online ahead of time rather than paying on the spot to visit Komodo island. 

Last year, the provincial governor sparked controversy when he proposed charging visitors €445 to see the dragons – 50 times the current entrance fee.

Security will also be tightened to prevent bids to smuggle the endangered lizard, Jelamu said today. 

Last week, police in East Java foiled an attempt to smuggle five Komodo dragons and arrested a group of traffickers linked to the case.

© AFP 2019 

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