Komodo’s growing popularity could be endangering its most famous residents

THE dramatic mountains, lush greenery, sweeping beaches and, of course, the local wildlife, mean Indonesia’s Komodo Island is fast becoming one of the top international tourist destinations in the country. But this popularity could be placing the island’s most famous residents at risk, tourism officials warn.

The Komodo dragons, that give the island its name, are the world’s largest lizard and the three islands that make up the Komodo National Park – Komodo, Rinca and Padar island – are the species most important habitat. While the animals are protected within this area, local tourism officials warn the huge influx of tourists could have a detrimental effect and have urged the Indonesian government to make protection of the species a top priority.

Urging for better visitor flow on the island, East Nusa Tenggara Tourism and Creative Economy Agency head Marius Ardu Jelamu told the Environment Ministry to encourage travel to other areas in the region.

Komodo Dragon, Varanus komodensis, on beach, Komodo Island, Indonesia SE Asia Large male monitor lizard along the beach/shoreline as it seeks food by scavenging. Source: Joe McDonald/Shutterstock

“We certainly do not want the Komodo dragons to become stressed or ill due to the many number of visitors”, he said, as reported by The Jakarta Post. “If necessary, visits could be organised through registration, so while waiting their turn, visitors could also visit other destinations around Komodo Island and Labuan Bajo.”

Despite being protected, the Komodo dragon is listed as a vulnerable species and they also shy away from encounters with humans. Visitors to the national park are advised to be careful because if their natural habitat is disturbed, the animals can turn aggressive.

“The aggression of the giant lizard is indeed difficult to predict. However, what is feared is when they start to have a shortage of prey animals. In these conditions, the visitors can become a komodo dragon’s target,” Marius said.

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While the protection of the ecology of the islands is paramount, a visit here can be heard to resist. If you’re planning a trip to the area, it’s worth considering checking out some of the other breathtaking spots in the Nusa Tenggara archipelago in order to lighten the burden on the National Park area and minimize any potential damage to the natural habitat.

Just east of Bali is the island of Lombok, offering a much more laid back and less hectic vibe as its western neighbor, but no less beautiful.

There’s also the large, dry and thinly populated, Sumbawa. While there’s not much in the way of attractions, the island boasts two famous coasts for surfing: Maluk and Pantai Lakey.

West Timor, the Indonesian portion of Timor island, is drawing increasing numbers of travelers. Many come for the exquisite traditional crafts such as fabrics, which are sold in tiny village markets.

In the meantime, tourism development rumbles on and Komodo Island is set to welcome its first five-star hotel in summer 2018.