'Jurassic Park' project no threat to Komodo dragon, says Indonesian government

A viral image of one of the world's largest lizard's facing off with a big lorry has sparked outrage

In this photograph taken on December 2, 2010 a Komodo dragon prowls the shore of Komodo island, the natural habitat of the world's largest lizard. Indonesia has declared the islands a national park in 1980 to protect the the Komodo dragons. The islands of Komodo and Rinca and surrounding smaller islands comprises Komodo National Park that is located in East Nusa Tenggara province. Park authorities estimate about 2,700 Komodo dragons live in the nature reserve that has been declared UNESCO "World Heritage Site." The carnivorous lizards, feeding on water buffalos, deers and wild boars, can grow three meters in length and weigh more than 150 kilograms, has known to have existed in this few islands for millions of years.    AFP PHOTO / ROMEO GACAD (Photo by Romeo GACAD / AFP)

Indonesia's environment ministry on Tuesday sought to calm outrage over the construction of an island tourism project being dubbed "Jurassic Park", after an image went viral on social media of a Komodo dragon facing off with a big lorry.

The picture of the dragon, one of the world's largest lizards, blocking the path of a big vehicle on Indonesia's Rinca Island prompted an outpouring of anger about perceived threats to the natural habitat of the vulnerable species.

Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the picture.

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What's going on now is a destruction of the dragons' living spaces

Wiratno, a senior environment ministry official, said rangers would ensure the safety of dragons roaming near the construction, which will include an elevated deck, a dam and an information centre, to be completed in June.

"They will intensively make checks of whether the Komodo dragons are under the buildings, remnants of buildings, and under the trucks carrying material," he said in a statement.

Indonesia's current Komodo population is about 3,000, according to government data.

Komodo dragons reach up to 10 metres long, have curved and serrated teeth, a yellow forked tongue, strong limbs and a long tail.

They can take down prey as big as a water buffalo with a single venomous bite.

The project, which involves the country's public works and housing ministry, seeks to cater to visitors of the Komodo National Park, where the Komodos can be seen in the wild.

Social media users have likened the project to one on a dinosaur island featured in the "Jurassic Park" films.

The public works ministry in a statement on Monday also assured the safety of the Komodos.

But environmentalists said the construction must stop.

"Komodo needs to be the main priority. They need to be protected in a designated area," said Umbu Wulang Tanaamahu Paranggi, director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) in East Nusa Tenggara. "What's going on now is a destruction of the dragons' living spaces."

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