Komodo: Tourists must pay $1,000 to enter ‘Dragon Island’
KOMODO: The Indonesian island of Komodo, home to the Komodo dragon, will not be closed to tourists next year – but a $1,000 membership scheme will be introduced, the authorities have said.
It reverses a July announcement that the island would close in January to protect the dragons and their habitat.
It was due to re-open after a year – but the government has now said a membership scheme will be introduced.
Currently, tourists pay around $10 (£8) to enter the island.
In 2018, 176,000 people visited Komodo, up from 44,000 people in 2008.
In July, the local governor said the island needed to be closed to stop tourism from interfering in the mating and hatching processes of the komodo dragon population.
The island would re-open after a year but as a more exclusive destination, the governor said.
“People will have to become members and pay $1,000 (£790) to enter for a year,” said the region’s governor, Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat, at the time. “I think that’s cheap.”
On Monday, the ministry of environment and local governor agreed that that the island would not close, and that a membership system will now be introduced, at a cost of $1,000.
Conservation efforts to protect the dragons will be increased and the 2,000 residents of Komodo – who would have been relocated for a year – will also be allowed to stay.
State news agency Antara said there would be two membership levels. Premium members will be allowed to visit Komodo island, while non-premium members will be able to visit other islands in the Komodo national park, where dragons also live.
Marius Jelamu, spokesman for Mr Laiskodat, told the BBC precise details were still being worked out.
“The growth of the community on the island will be restricted so that the village does not become too big and threaten conservation efforts,” he said.
“There will also be more education programs in the village to make sure the community are fully part of the conservation effort.”
He added there would be tighter regulations on the movement of cruise ships.
Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizards. They can grow up to 3m (10ft) long and have razor-sharp teeth and a poisonous bite.
Most of them – around 1,700 – live on Komodo Island, and around 1,000 more live on Rinca, another island in the national park.
The national park as a whole is a Unesco World Heritage site.