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Asia Minute: Managing Tourists and Dragons on Komodo Island

Komodo Dragon

There’s a question many Hawaii residents have asked that is growing around the world. How does one balance the preservation of natural beauty with a growing tourism industry? A new approach was announced this week in Indonesia.

The Komodo dragon is an impressive creature by several measures. They can grow to be as big as 10 feet long and can weigh up to 150 pounds. They don’t breathe fire. They’re actually the world’s largest lizard found on a few islands in the eastern part of the Indonesian archipelago — where their local name translates as “land crocodiles.”

One of those islands is Komodo Island, and government officials in Indonesia have worried about the impact of tourism on the island’s namesake animal.

In fact, just a few months ago, the local governor announced the island would be closed to the public to stop visitors from interfering in the dragon’s lives — especially their mating and hatching. That decision was reversed this week, Indonesia’s Environment Minister said the population of Komodo Island’s roughly 17,000 dragons is stable and there is no threat of decline. 

So, the island will remain open to tourists, but with a catch — an expensive one.

Starting as soon as the early part of next year, it will cost you a cool thousand dollars just to set foot on Komodo Island.

That’s up from the current charge of about ten dollars.

According to government figures, nearly 200,000 people came to Komodo Island last year — four times the number of visitors ten years ago.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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