In April, Indonesian authorities announced that Komodo Island would be closed to tourists for one year after more than 40 Komodo dragons were stolen and sold overseas for approximately $35,000 each.
The government hoped that the island’s closure, which was expected to start in January 2020, would help with conservation efforts to preserve the dragons’ habitat and increase the current population of the lizards throughout Komodo National Park.
On Monday, October 1, however, Indonesia canceled its plans to close the popular Komodo Island for tourists, announcing that the country’s local tourism ministry would instead impose a limit on the number of visitors to the area.
According to the state-owned agency Antara News, Indonesia’s maritime affairs minister, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, said that the country will set up an annual membership system for travelers who want to visit the popular spot. “Komodo Island will not be closed,” Pandjaitan said in a statement. “A restriction will be placed on the number of tourists to Komodo Island by rearranging its ticketing system.” (At the time this article was published, the Indonesian tourism ministry hadn’t yet specified a ticket quota or price under the newly announced system.)
Although plans for the temporary closure of Komodo National Park came soon after the smuggling ring was busted, talks about limiting the number of visitors to the island had previously been under discussion amid growing concerns that overtourism in the area was affecting the natural behavior of the native lizard species. The proposed ban, however, sparked concerns by some Komodo Island residents, who stated that closing the island to travelers for a year would negatively affect the local economy. (As a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Indonesia, Komodo National Park received more than 176,000 visitors in 2018, the Guardian reports.)
Komodo dragons, the world’s largest species of lizard, can grow up to 10 feet in length and weigh more than 300 pounds. These venomous lizards are found throughout Komodo National Park on the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motong, and Flores. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists them as a vulnerable species on its Red List of Threatened Species. According to government figures, approximately 1,727 Komodo dragons live on the island.
This article originally appeared online in April 3, 2019; it was updated on October 2, 2019, to include current information.
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