Tourists will be temporarily banned from the island starting in January 2020.
If going to Indonesia’s Komodo Island was part of your long-term travel plans, you’re going to want to make that trip soon.
After more than 40 Komodo dragons were recently stolen and sold overseas for approximately $35,000 each, the local government has decided to close Komodo Island to tourists starting in January 2020, according to Indonesia’s Tempo newspaper.
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.
The closure, which is expected to last one year, will be limited to Komodo Island. The government hopes that the closure will help with its conservation efforts to preserve the dragons’ habitat and increase the current population of about 5,700 lizards throughout the park.
Although the news comes soon after the smuggling ring was busted, plans to limit the number of visitors to Komodo Island for conservation efforts have been under discussion since January. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in Indonesia, Komodo National Park receives an average of 10,000 visitors per month, CNN reports.
However, some experts are worried that closing the island for a year will negatively affect the local economy and won’t deter smugglers from attempting to steal the dragons.
“If there are organized crime groups suddenly making a lot of money from Komodo dragons, they’ll find a way to get there and to get those animals,” Crawford Allan, a senior director and wildlife trafficking expert with the World Wildlife Fund, told the Washington Post.
“I think [closing the island] is just something that will just book up the price, and the higher the price, the more likely poaching is to take place.”