Govt agrees with plan to close Komodo Island

Govt agrees with plan to close Komodo Island

Komodo Island in East Nusa Tenggara, home of endemic species komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis). ANTARA FOTO/Indrianto Eko Suwarso/ama.

Kupang, E Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) - East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Governor Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat revealed that Environmental Affairs and Forestry (LHK) Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar had agreed to his plan to close Komodo Island for a year.

"Mrs minister of LHK agrees. She said that as long as it is good, there is no problem. We are now processing the technical matters," the governor stated here, Tuesday, Jan 22.

Laiskodat said the closure of Komodo Island, located in West Manggarai District, Flores Island, NTT, will be materialized when Minister Bakar agrees with his request for cooperation to manage the Komodo National Park, which is, so far, directly under the management and supervision of the LHK Ministry.

Laiskodat said his administration plans to rearrange the island, which is home to the komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) to allow endemic flowers to grow and deer, buffaloes, goats, and other preys of the Komodo to breed in the wilderness on the island. He also expressed keenness to plan genetic engineering to increase the population of Komodo dragons on the island.

The NTT administration has allocated Rp100 billion in the 2019 regional state budget for restoring the habitat of the Komodo Dragon and making arrangements for the park.

He had earlier noted that although the TNK comes under the authority of the LHK Ministry, the NTT provincial administration will take over its management.

"Hence, we will take over. We will also close it temporarily. If there are noises, the president will interfere and at that time will explain the reasons," Laiskodat, politician of the National Democrat (Nasdem) Party, stated.

Tourists will only be allowed to tour around the island by boat, but they will not be allowed to land on the island, he clarified

"I am serious. Komodo Island must be designed. Tourists like wilderness of Komodo. They do not come to see lazy Komodo dragons," he stated.

He also plans to raise the entry ticket fare to Komodo Island to US$500 per tourist when it is reopened.

"US$500 is a donation for the development of the world ecosystem," the NTT governor said.

The entry ticket fare to the Komodo National Park is now Rp150 thousand (less than US$10) for a foreign tourist and Rp5 thousand for a domestic tourist.

Meanwhile, Vice President M. Jusuf Kalla, in Jakarta on Tuesday, expressed his objection to the planned closure of Komodo Island and called for a detailed study of the plan.

Kalla said he agreed to the plan to raise the ticket fare to enter Komodo National Park, as the current fare is too low.

Speaking in connection with the hike in ticket fare, Kalla called to draw reference from the Angkor Wat National Park in Cambodia where each tourist is charged US$50.

Kalla also said that as a conservation area, a national park must come under the authority of the LHK Ministry.

Safri Burhanuddin, deputy in charge of natural resources of the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, has called for a comprehensive study involving the LHK Ministry, Tourism Ministry, and the NTT provincial administration, among others, prior to imposing the closure.

A closure of the island would have a significant impact on the tourism industry, regionally and nationally, he pointed out.

The government will organize a meeting to discuss the plan, he stated.

Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan had earlier suggested that for the sake of nature conservation on the island, the number of tourists visiting the island should be limited, but the island must not be closed, he noted.

Reporting by Aloysius L, Fransiska, Ade Irma
Editing by Fardah