The Care and Keeping of Dragons
President Says Komodo National Park will be Upgraded with Utmost Attention Paid to Conservation and Carrying Capacity
Following a visit to Labuan Bajo in West Flore and the adjacent Komodo National Park, President Joko Widodo has called for Rinca Island – one of the islands on the three main islands in the 1,733 square kilometer Park – to be fully integrated into plans to develop the National Park. In addition to the three main islands of Komodo, Padar and Rinca, the Komodo National Park also includes 26 lesser islands that combined cover 603 square kilometers of land.
Officials at the park have conducted surveys suggesting that the main island of Komodo is home to 1,700 komodo lizards and Pula Rinca hosts some 1,040 of the species of monitor lizards that can grow to more than 3 meters in length and weigh 70 kilograms.
Bisniswisata.co.id quoted President Widodo as saying: “We ask that the carrying capacity of the Park be carefully calculated. Let’s not have any loss. This is not just amount tourism, but we must view the Park as a conservation zone. The President’s comments were made during a visit to West Manggarai and the Komodo National Park on Thursday, July 11, 2019.
Among those joining the President on his visit were the First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo, The Minister for the National Secretariat Pratikno, the Minister for Public Works and Public Housing Basuki Hadimuljuno, the Minister of Transportation Budi Sumadi, and the Governor for East Nusa Tengarra Viktor Laiskodat.
The President said a comprehensive plan was needed for the park that designated elements for tourism and elements for conservation. He said visitor numbers based on carrying capacity must be limited to certain areas of the Park. Adding: “We want Komodo Island to be dedicated (primarily) to conservations, with tourism totals absolutely limited. There will be a quota and it will be expensive to visit. If you are unable to pay (the admission fee), then there’s no need to go there. If people who can't pay the admission fee, they can still visit Rinca Island.”
President Widodo said a Grand Master Plan would soon be formulated for the Komodo National Park that will encompass Labuan Bajo in West Flores, Komodo Island, Rinca Island, and the surrounding seas.
Commenting on past and current management of the Park, the President continued: “All must be carefully designed and the work must not be done bit by bit. We like to undertake projects in a piecemeal fashion allocating only Rp. 200 million or Rp. 500 million each year. What can be accomplished in this fashion? We need a comprehensive plan with money allocated in a single shot but in accordance with a detailed plan. The plan must cover the experience from arrival at the airport to the tourist destination - all done in a seamless manner.”
The President denied that the Komodo National Park forms part of a Special Economic Zone. “This is unnecessary, what matters is that there is a planned process for the area that is executed precisely. In the future, Komodo Island can be made more exclusive, but not for Rinca Island. But (in both cases) there will be a visitor quota. Even Rinca Island will have a calculated limit on carrying capacity. We cannot just let people come as they like (without reference to the effect of their visit). This is a National Park. The environmental impact must also be calculated and taken into consideration,” he said.
The President targeted that the planned renovation and improvement in the Komodo National Park will be completed within two to three years.
From the year 2014 until 2018, the number of tourists visiting Komodo has more than doubled. In 2014, 80,000 tourists visited the Park increasing to 170,000 in 2018. An estimate 60% of these total were foreign tourists.
Officials say the number of Komodo lizards found in the park fluctuates depending on natural conditions and the availability of food in the form of deer, wild boars and other animals on which the reptiles can prey. At optimal levels, the entire Park should host between 2,000 and 3,000 Komodos. Currently, there are an estimated 2,800 Komodos existing in the Park.
Outside the confines of the Park, a population of Komodos also exists on the Island of Flores.