Indonesia has reversed plans to impose a tourism ban on the eastern Komodo island next year, although visitors who wish to see its population of rare Komodo dragons may have to pay a $1,000 (£818) membership fee instead.
Viktor B. Laiskodat, the governor of the Southeast Asian nation’s East Nusa Tenggara province, in July confirmed earlier reports that the island needed to be closed to the public to stop tourism interfering with the giant lizard’s mating and hatching process and to cut the risk of poaching its prey, including deer, buffalo and wild boar.
However, on Tuesday, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, the environment and forestry minister, overruled that decision, saying that the species had been stable for more than a decade. “There is no threat of a decline,” he said.
The ministry has indicated that it will work with the provincial government to improve the training of rangers and provide better equipment for patrols, as well as set up a research centre for Komodo dragons.
But according to a BBC report, access to the Komodo National Park would still be restricted to those willing to cough up $1,000 for the privilege of year-long access to the world’s largest lizards, which can grow up to 10ft long and are known for their poisonous, potentially lethal bite.
More than 176,000 tourists visited Komodo National Park in 2018, mainly drawn by the novelty of the dragons, which are only found in the wild in eastern Indonesia.
Number of Komodo dragons
Although increasingly a popular destination for diving, the tourism development in the region lags behind other popular tourist destinations like Bali.
It is also unclear whether the membership fee would apply to both Komodo island, which has 1,727 dragons, and Rinca, another island in the national park, which hosts 1,049 dragons.
They were first declared a protected species in 1915 by the Dutch colonial government.