“They don’t really think. They act on basic instinct and are opportunistic carnivores. They need meat. Any meat.”
So says Agus, ranger and guide of Komodo National Park, says of the Komodo Dragon.
Created in 1980, the park was set up to protect the nearly-endangered species. The small island of Rinca is home to 1/5 of the park’s 5,000 Komodo dragons. Their large size is down to a phenomenon called “island gigantism,” caused by the lack of other carnivorous animals on an isolated land mass.
Komodo dragons have survived for millions of years.
But could their demise be caused by a new threat… The rise of Chinse Tourism.
Let’s start by putting Flores and Komodo National Park tourism into context:
Labuan Bajo – Capital of Flores – received 278,000 tourists in 2017
Less than 1% were from China
Komodo National Park received 70,000 visitors last year
In 2017 – 15 cruise ships with hundreds of passengers made regular stops at Komodo National Park
Most of these tourists were from Java, Europe or America
But come May 2018, there is set to be an influx of tourists from mainland China.
From May until the end of the year, there is set to be 100 Chinese tourists arriving at every day at the Komodo National Park
This number is up from 50 Chinese visitors a month in 2016.
That’s a 6000% increase of Chinese visitors to Komodo island.
Agus looks at this exponential increase with anxiety. More tourism means more litter, sewage and waste. The attraction of the National Park and the current 500-1,000 visitors is the unspoiled environment.
It will not only affect the Dragons but the wildlife that support their ecosystem.
Abdul Rahman, a Komodo National Park official and former ranger warns:
“[More traffic] won’t just affect the Komodo dragon. It will disturb other animals like deer and wild pigs that the dragons feed on”
“Komodos depend on them for food. They are cannibalistic, if they don’t get enough food, they will start to eat each other.”
Though short-termism for tourism will be hard for rangers to turn down.
Each ranger gets Rp. 40k per tour, with revenue from the park’s warungs as a bonus. It’s their economy that is expected to grow 70-80% as a result.
On top of this, Labuan Bajo has been earmarked to become one of the “10 new Bali’s”. Capital is pouring into its tourism industry to reach a national target of 500,000 tourists by next year.
According to WWF Indonesia:
“The waste generated in Labuan Bajo [amounts to] 12.8 million tonnes per day.”
“Labuan Bajo is also lacking in clean water, followed by energy, food … its natural resources are also under pressure from fishing and other activities. From both studies, it is estimated that tourism carrying capacity is below 300,000 individuals per year.”
The time is now for Indonesia to consider the long-term stability of tourist destinations, to preserve what makes our archipelago the best place to visit in the world.
The Komodo Dragon is a huge source of attraction for Chinese tourism to the region, as dragon mythology plays an important role in Chinese culture.
It would be a bitter irony if Chinese pilgrimage to Komodo hastens the extinction of the real deal.
Augustinus Christofer Dula, regent of West Manggarai has stated: