Komodo park price hike unleashes controversy in Indonesia
Jakarta/Bangkok, Aug 6 (EFE).- The increase in price to access the Komodo national park has sparked controversy in Indonesia between those who fear the measure will affect tourism negatively and those who support the measure that seeks to protect the world’s largest lizard.
Indonesia authorities claim that the surge in ticket prices — which jumped from 250,000 rupiah (about $16) to 3.75 million rupiah ($250) this week — is intended to protect the Komodo dragons and preserve the ecosystem of this unique archipelago.
“We want tourists to have a sense of ownership of the conservation, of preserving the ecosystem and the Komodo dragons. This animal is unique and we must take care of it, tourists must also contribute,” the head of tourism in East Nusa Tenggara province, Sony Z Libing, said.
But the measure has sparked anger among locals, whose livelihoods depend on tourism and who fear that the increase in price will result in a drop in tourism.
Following the announcement of the new measure, dozens of workers staged protests and announced a labor strike for the whole month of August.
Komodo national park has been a mass tourist destination for some 20 years and while it has been a source of income for the local population, it has also impacted the dragon habitat in a negative way.
The massive increase in travelers, with over 176,000 visitors in 2018 and more than 220,000 in 2019, led the Indonesian government to consider closing Komodo Island in 2020 to restore the dragon’s habitat.
While the ministry of tourism was never able to shut down the park due heavy criticism from the local population, it increased the entrance fee as well as limited visitors to 200,000 per year.
Originally from Indonesia, the Komodo dragon has been listed as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
Experts estimate that the Komodo national park — declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 and in 2011 was proclaimed one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World — is currently home to some 3,300 dragons. EFE