Indonesian gov’t scraps plan to close Komodo Island next year

Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

Travelers, it looks like you can go ahead and plan that trip to visit Komodo Island after all, as the Indonesian government announced yesterday it was canceling plans to close the island to tourism next year. 

“We will not be closing Komodo Island, what we’re going to do is have the regional and central government manage it together with other relevant stakeholders, and apply a limit on the number of tourists that can visit Komodo Island,” said Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan yesterday, as quoted in a press release received by Coconuts Bali

Earlier this year, officials from the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province, where Komodo Island is located, said that the island would be closed for one year from January 2020, in order to revitalize the island and improve food supplies for the endangered lizards. 

NTT Governor Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat said in June that plans to close the popular attraction for a year was aimed at transforming Komodo island into a world-class conservation site. 

Viktor also previously said that only people with “deep pockets” are allowed to see the komodo dragons, suggesting that visitors should be charged US$500 to see the species.

An aerial view of the island Pulau Padar, or Padar Island, at the famous Komodo National Park in Indonesia. Photo: iStock
An aerial view of the island Pulau Padar, or Padar Island, at the famous Komodo National Park in Indonesia. Photo: iStock

Komodo Island is part of Indonesia’s Komodo National Park, which comprises of other islands including Rinca Island, Padar Island, and more than 20 smaller islands in the area. The Park itself is home to a total of 2,897 Komodo dragons, according to government data, with the largest population of 1,727 dragons living on Komodo Island alone. 

The initial plan to shut down Komodo Island was not going to affect other areas of the national park, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. In 2018, more than 176,000 tourists visited the area.

Now that the plan is off, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar reaffirmed that the population of Komodo dragons in the country have been stable for more than a decade, highlighting that there is no threat to the largest living lizard species from over-tourism. 

“[The number of] Komodo dragons on Komodo island during 2002 to 2019 observations has been relatively stable. There is no threat of a decline,” Siti told Reuters

Luhut also said visitors at Komodo National Park will be able to purchase an annual premium membership, where they would be able to access Komodo Island and see the larger-sized Komodo dragons. 

“The [non-premium] visitors will be directed to see smaller-sized Komodo dragons, such as on Rinca island,” Luhut said. 

The government looks set on tackling some issues with the popular tourist attraction, including revamping tourism spots and activities around the area, improving training of rangers and providing better equipment for patrols. In addition, officials also said that a research center for Komodo dragons will be established in the near future.


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