Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizards (some measure over 10 feet and weigh as much as 176 lbs), yet ill-intentioned visitors to the Indonesian island of Komodo, one of the only places in the world where the animal can be found, managed to sneak some out.
A ring of lizard smugglers, not badly behaved tourists, allegedly stole dragons off the island and took them overseas to later sell for profit. According to The Washington Post, “nine men were arrested on suspicion of selling more than 40 Komodo dragons for about $35,000 each.” According to Tempo, “Police seized five Komodo dragons along with other animals mostly originating from eastern Indonesia, including pangolins, a wild cat and birds, such as cockatoos.”
It is believed that the lizards were meant to be used for suspect medicinal purposes. Rofiq Ripto Himawan, a police commissioner in East Java explained to Tempo that the dragons were usually sent to Asian buyers for traditional medicine and to make an antibiotic.
Komodo dragons can only be found in Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site composed of several islands, of which the three main are: Komodo, Padar, and Rinca. There are 5,700 specimens of Komodo dragons in Komodo National Park and the species is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.
According to the The Jakarta Post, the island of Komodo will close temporarily in January 2020 for one year, but the other two islands will remain open. The closure is intended to give conservationists time to examine the lizards’ food supply, preserve endemic plant species, and conduct surveys of the habitat to help grow the Komodo dragon and deer population.