Protests against an Indonesian government backed scheme to promote tourism on Rinca Island, dubbed “Jurassic Park” have intensified following the publication of a picture showing a Komodo Dragon and a workers truck in close proximity.
Rinca Island is one of the the three largest islands making up Komodo National Park in Indonesia. The island comprises an area of just 198 sq km (76 sq miles) and can be reached only by boat.
The Komodo National Park was founded in 1980 to protect the Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard, and its remit has since been expanded to help protect other species including marine life. The National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
Around 4,000 Komodo dragons are believed to inhabit the National Park and many locals and conservationists oppose the project saying that the construction and increased tourism will harm the natural habitat of the dragons. The use of concrete for the new structures has also been criticised as not being in keeping with the local habitat and National Park status.
The Komodo dragon can grow up to 3 metres (10ft) long weighing up to 140kg (300 lb). They eat a wide range of animals although the primary prey are the Timor deer and carrion although they have been known to kill Water Buffalo. Dragons have been known, rarely, to attack humans and a single bite can be fatal due to the venom injected which prevents blood clotting, lowers blood pressure and induces shock.
It has been reported that around 15 Komodo dragons are regularly seen in the area of the project park of a localised population of around 66 dragons. There are estimated to be just over 1,000 dragons on Rinca, the second highest population behind Komodo Island with more than 1,700.
The work is designed to increase tourism to the area and promote the island as a “premium tourism destination”. The project has received Rp69.96 billion (approx £3.67 million or US$4.78 million) of funding.
The Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR) issued a press release on 26th October in an attempt to reassure concerned residents and environmentalists that the facilities were being built “with great care”.
The press release states that much of the project is designed to be elevated 2 metres high so as not to interfere with the activities of the dragons and other animals and protect visitors and includes:
- An improvement to the existing Loh Buaya Pier
- A coastal safety building and footpath
- Information centre including resort office, guest house and cafeteria
- Lodging and research posts for rangers, tour guides and researchers
- An elevated deck access road linking the pier to the information center and lodgings
Head of the NTT Provincial Settlement Infrastructure Center, Herman Tobo was quoted as saying “We are always accompanied by a ranger from the Komodo National Park, so that the construction process of infrastructure and facilities does not damage or disturb the habitat of the Komodo dragons”.
The project work is reported to be currently demolishing existing buildings and the temporary installation of fencing to protect workers and Komodo Dragons.
There is concern however that these works are only the start of development and further, more invasive and damaging works will soon follow.
Picture credits Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR)
The project work is estimated to be completed in June 2021.
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