Indonesia is scrapping plans to close Komodo Island to tourists

The country's environment minister says the population of dragons is stable

TO GO WITH Indonesia-animals-environment-tourism FEATURE by Jerome Rivet
In this photo taken December 2, 2010 a Komodo dragon searches the shore area of Komodo island for prey. They don't breathe fire but Komodo dragons -- the largest lizards in the world -- can kill a buffalo or any one of the intrepid tourists who flock to their deserted island habitats. Three metres (10 feet) long and weighing up to 70 kilograms (150 pounds), Komodo dragons are lethargic, lumbering creatures but they have a fearsome reputation for devouring anything they can, including their own. AFP PHOTO / ROMEO GACAD (Photo by Romeo GACAD / AFP)
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Plans to close Komodo Island to tourists in 2020 have been scrapped, Indonesia’s environment minister has said.

It was announced in July that the eastern island would close to protect the dragons from tourists who were said to be interfering with the mating and hatching process. The initial plan would have seen tourism to the island cease for around one year.

Other islands in Komodo National Park, a 173,300-hectare Unesco World Heritage Site, were set to remain open.

However, on Monday, September 30, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said data shows the population of Komodo dragons – the largest living species of lizard – has been stable for more than a decade. She said there has been no threat of decline between 2002 and 2019.

According to government data, 1,727 Komodo dragons currently live on the island. Rinca, another island in the national park, is home to a further 1,049 dragons.

Komodo island will now become a special conservation tourism destination with different arrangements compared with Rinca, the ministry said.

More than 176,000 tourists visited Komodo National Park in 2018, with many visitors coming just to see the dragons, which are only found in the wild in eastern Indonesia.