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  • A Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) sticks out his tongue at the Cincinnati Zoo.

    A Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) sticks out his tongue at the Cincinnati Zoo. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Published 4 April 2019

During the shutdown, East Nusa Tenggara officials will conduct efforts for population growth and habitat conservation.

Starting next year, it is likely that Indonesian tourist site Komodo Island will be shut down due to reports of theft and over-sea smuggling of the Komodo dragons that inhabit the island. The announced was made Friday.

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During the shutdown, East Nusa Tenggara officials will conduct efforts for population growth and habitat conservation. The possibility of the islands closing has been on the table since discussions took place, in January, when officials indicated that the closure would last a full year.

The two other islands which make up Komodo National Park will remain open.

Just last week, nine men were arrested for trafficking over 40 Komodo dragons worth US$35,000 each.

"These animals are sold for traditional medicine. Komodo dragons could be used to make an antibiotic," East Java police commissioner Rofiq Ripto Himawan explained. The operation also resulted in the seizure of other animals native to the region, including wildcats and several species of birds.

The reptiles are especially valuable since they are only found in the eastern region of Indonesia. Currently, they are classified as a "vulnerable" species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

While authorities believe the lizard's antimicrobial peptides, which makes it immune to the extremely venomous and fatal bite of other Komodos, are used to make antibiotics, there is some questioning about the plausibility of that theory.

Associate professor for the University of Queensland, Bryan Fry, says the process is very complicated and unlikely, adding that even if the animal's blood is purified, “the likelihood of a violent allergic reaction would be very high.”

Fry also points out that a similar 'medicinal fantasy' drives the poaching of Rhino horns, which Asian consumers claim can be used as an aphrodisiac.

Senior director and wildlife trafficking expert with the World Wildlife Fund, Crawford Allan, highlighted the "high degree of organized criminality involved, and also a bit of corruption as well."

While the shutdown is necessary for the recuperation of the Komodo dragon population and habitat, economic concerns have been raised.

The island is a major source of tourism and many locals depend on the activity for income. A yearlong closure would significantly impact the annual average of about 18,000 visitors.

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