Tourists a drag for dragons

Fee could limit Ko­modo Is­land vis­its

Edmonton Sun - - LIFE - NATALIE B. Comp­ton The Wash­ing­ton Post

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.

Ap FILES

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.

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