Tourists a drag for dragons
Fee could limit Komodo Island visits
To protect Komodo Island’s titular dragon, the Indonesian government wants to limit the number of tourists allowed to visit there — and the qualification will be coughing up a hefty price tag.
The new plan comes after officials’ announcement this year that the island would be closed to all tourism for the entirety of 2020, which residents of the island pushed back against. They argued that the loss of tourism revenue would hurt the local economy. With the new initiative, those wishing to visit the island in Unesco-recognized Komodo National Park will need to buy a premium annual membership for $1,000, according to reporting by the BBC. Travellers with a non-premium membership will be directed to alternative Komodo-dragon-inhabited destinations, such as nearby Rinca Island.
Additional plans include building a Komodo research centre on the island as well as restructuring protocols for yacht tourism. The government has promised a budget of more than the equivalent of $7 million for the conservation efforts.
Komodo dragons, the world’s largest living lizards, are under threat on Komodo Island for a range of issues. Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat, the governor of East Nusa Tenggara province, told Tempo newspaper that a decline in the island’s deer population could be to blame. The dragons are also stolen and sold overseas (for about $35,000 each) for medical purposes.
Protecting the scaly creatures may be in the best interest of tourists and locals (and the dragons) alike. According to Collin O’mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, more animals means more tourist dollars.
“Countries that have healthier wildlife populations by far have stronger tourism economies,” he said.
Officials are hoping a $1,000 fee will discourage some tourists from visiting Komodo Island, in a bid to better defend the island’s titular dragons.