Indonesia’s Komodo Island Closing To Tourists Because People Are Stealing Dragons
By Parker Diakite
Indonesia’s famous Komodo Island, home to the Komodo dragon, will be closed to tourists soon.
The closure is in response to an alleged smuggling case in which more than 40 Komodo dragons were sold abroad, as reported in Indonesia’s Tempo newspaper.
Located in Manggarai Barat, Komodo Island is a popular tourist destination for those who wish to see the lizard. The lizard has a venomous bite, can grow up to 9-feet-long and weigh more than 110 pounds.
Officials announced the popular tourist destination will close temporarily beginning January 2020 so they can plant native vegetation and help restock the endangered animals’ food supply.
“Those are our plans to manage Komodo National Park especially Komodo Island in 2020,” East Nusa Tenggara Spokesperson Marius Jelaum told Tempo, adding that the closure is expected to increase population and preserve the habitat of Komodo dragons.
There are no clear plans on when the island will reopen, but visitors can expect the closure to last at least one year.
Earlier this year, local police in East Java arrested five people accused of smuggling Komodo dragons and other protected animals from the island. According to police, the suspects sold at least 41 Komodo dragons on Facebook for an estimated $34,750 each.
Conservation groups estimate that there are about 6,000 Komodo dragons in the wild. The animal, listed as both endangered and protected, is found primarily on the eastern Indonesian islands of Komodo, Padar, and Rinca.
Komodo Island is part of the Komodo National Park, which includes two other large land masses and smaller islands. Tourists interested in seeing the largest lizard species in the world may still have a chance in 2020. While Komodo Island, which houses about 1,800 lizards, will close, the rest of the park will remain open, including Rinca, Gilla and Motong Islands.