JAKARTA – Komodo Island, a popular tourist destination and home to the world’s largest lizards, will close in 2020 in a bid to protect its wildlife.
The Indonesian government announced Friday that it will ban tourism and relocate residents to recover the Komodo dragon’s habitat.
Komodos are an endangered species that lives on a few islands in the central area of the archipelago.
“We want to close it to preserve it, we are going to redesign the island so that it becomes a world-class conservation zone,” Marius Ardu Jelamu, spokesman of the regional secretariat of East Nusa Tenggara province, told Efe.
He said that the measure will come into effect in January, will last at least one year and could be extended to two if necessary.
Jelamu added that tourists will be able to continue observing the reptiles on the nearby islands of Rinca and Padar, which are part of the Komodo National Park.
The initiative also aims to recover the populations of deer and buffalo, which the dragons feed on and which have declined due to poaching, as well as prevent mass tourism that pollutes the island and affects the lizards.
“(The tourists) provoke the aggressiveness of the Komodo dragons and there have been many cases in which they were bitten by the dragons,” Ardu said.
The regional government will allocate $7.2 million to restore the native flora and fauna of the island and to build infrastructures that help protect its terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
Some of the island’s residents are opposed to the decision, as it would also mean they are relocated and they fear that they would risk losing their livelihoods.
The Komodo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to more than 5,000 of the lizards.
They are the largest in the world, growing up to three meters in length, and classified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.