The Indonesian island of Komodo will be closed to the public from January 2020, in an effort to protect the Komodo dragon.
The scheme also involves shifting around 2000 villagers off the island.
By closing the island, authorities hope to deter the rising number of Komodo dragon poachers and to give the lizard’s preferred prey (wild boar, buffalo and the like) a chance to recover.
Locals who make their living taking visitors to the Komodo National Park are upset.
“If we really have to do it, I hope we can find a middle ground on the solution, not closing the whole island but just a certain area,” said wildlife guide Rizaldian Syahputra.
Last year, over 176,000 tourists visited Komodo National Park.
Around 1700 Komodo dragons are estimated to live on Komodo island. But other islands that are home to more than 1400 of the giant lizards, such as nearby Rinca and Padar, will remain open to tourists.
Komodo island could reopen after a year, and then there is likely to be a hefty fee to visit.
According to local media reports, the governor of East Nusa Tenggara, Victor Laiskodat, wants to charge tourists US$500 each to enter Komodo National Park once it reopens, in an effort to boost the prestige of the conservation area.
“This is a rare place, only for people with money,” said Mr Laiskodat.
“Those who don’t have enough money shouldn’t come, because this place is for extraordinary people.”
Have you ever been to Komodo? Have you seen the famous dragon?
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