Komodo Island Is Closing Because People Keep Stealing Its Dragons

In many wild areas and National Parks, the motto for visitors is “take only photos, leave only footprints.” These rules help to preserve the natural habitat and animals for future visitors, and they should be easy to follow. Unfortunately, some visitors to Komodo Island definitely haven’t been following this advice. As a result, the island will likely close to tourists in January 2020.

The main attraction at Komodo Island are the namesake lizards who reside there. Unfortunately, these incredible creatures have also attracted some very bad actors. A smuggling ring has been stealing Komodo dragons from the island and selling them on the black market and via Facebook.

Moving the Komodo dragons is no easy task, as the reptiles can weigh up to 366 pounds. Still, those behind the smuggling ring planned to smuggle 41 Komodo dragons off the island and sell them in Southeast Asia, where they’re used for traditional medicine. According to the Jakarta Post, each one could bring in up to $35,000. Luckily, the East Java Police not only stopped the group, but also rescued five baby Komodos in their possession.

Protect And Preserve

In order to protect the endangered species, the Indonesian government announced plans to close the island of Komodo to tourists.

“Komodo Island will be shut down temporarily in January 2020,” Marius Jelamud, East Nusa Tenggara spokesman, shared during a meeting with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

The details of the closure plan are still pending. In 2018, the park earned more than $2 million from tourists, who come for the dragons and nearby diving sites. In response to concerns about the closure’s social and economic impact, the Natural Resource and Ecosystem Conservation (KSDAE) Directorate General has initiated a study on the plans.

GBR: Komodo Dragons Arrive At London Zoo
Getty Images | Steve Finn

Visitor Options

Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Man and Biosphere Reserve made up of many islands, is the only place to see the dragons in their natural habitat. If the closure of Komodo Island goes as scheduled, there are still four other islands in southeastern Indonesia on which you can see these impressive creatures. The rugged and hilly volcanic islands of Rinca, Gili Motang, Gili Dasami and Flores offer ideal Komodo habitats.

Closer to home, there are also several of the species living in captivity. The London Zoo, the San Diego Zoo, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and other zoos have Komodo dragons on-site.

You can also go a step further and help save the dragons by participating in the Adopt a Species program from the comfort of your own home.

Whatever happens, we hope the Komodo dragons remain safe from predators, natural and otherwise.