In July, Indonesian authorities announced that the island of Komodo would close for one year, starting in January 2020, to curb the detrimental effects of overtourism. Now, however, that closure has been canceled. As it turns out, tourism is not impacting the island’s Komodo dragons as was previously believed.
According to Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia’s environment and forestry minister, “[The number of] Komodo dragons on Komodo island during 2002 to 2019 observations has been relatively stable. There is no threat of a decline.”
The ban was initially announced due to concerns surrounding the influx of tourists to the island and the potential effect of those tourists on the animals’ mating habits. There were also concerns about poachers preying on the Komodo dragons, as well as the island’s deer. Although the ban is no more, a new Komodo dragon research center is still expected to open in the park, and the environment ministry has promised to renovate other tourist areas in the park as well.
The island fielded about 176,000 tourists in 2018, which is impressive given the $500 park entry fee. Indeed, just because the island will remain open to visitors, it doesn’t mean visiting will be easy. Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat, governor of East Nusa Tenggara, said, “Only people with deep pockets are allowed to [see Komodo dragons]. Those who don’t have the money shouldn’t visit the park since it specifically caters to extraordinary people.” Which, you know, gross.