Officers shot dead two suspected poachers during a shootout in Komodo National Park in Labuan Bajo, West Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara ( NTT ) on Thursday for allegedly attempting to hunt deer in the protected area.
'At least two poachers, who were residents of Sape [in Bima, Sumbawa], were killed in Komodo National Park,' West Manggarai Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Julens Abraham told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
Head of Komodo National Park Sustyo Iriyono said that the incident occurred around 6 p.m. local time at Toro Longkoi or Loh Belanda, west of Komodo Island.
The National Police's Mobile Brigade ( Brimob ) personnel were conducting a patrol in a speedboat around the island when they noticed an unidentified boat approaching the area.
The officers moved to check the boat when the people on board opened fire. Sustyo said there were 10 people on the boat and five of them had handmade firearms.
The men, he went on, were believed to be members of the Aiman Group, a notorious poaching gang. The two sides exchanged fire for 30 minutes before the gang took off from the scene. Police in Bima, to where the boat returned, said at least two in the boat had been killed.
In the past two weeks, Sustyo said, the authorities had increased patrols on the island by deploying a joint team comprising 10 Brimob personnel and some members of the Floating Ranger Station ( FRS ).
Senior tour guide Gabriel Pampur said poaching deer could threaten the population of Komodo dragons in the area.
'Deer, wild buffalo and other animals living in the park on Komodo and Rinca Islands are the primary food of Komodo dragons. If the deer and other animals are gone, the existence of the Komodo dragons would be threatened,' Gabriel said, adding that the populations of Komodos and other animals in the park had to be balanced.
Separately, West Manggarai Fishermen Association head Florianus Adu said the offenders were not local residents.
'The poachers are from outside West Manggarai. We are willing to assist the Komodo National Park management in catching poachers,' Florianus said.
The park has seen an increase in tourist arrivals after being recognized as one of the new seven wonders of nature in 2012.
Local government has been struggling to provide better infrastructure for tourists, while the community and activists have been working to keep the island and the port town of Labuan Bajo clean.
Labuan Bajo, which is the gateway to Komodo Island, has been facing a waste problem as garbage is typically dumped at sea by ships and washes up on shore.