The Jakarta Post
The Komodo National Park (TNK) in West Manggarai regency, Flores, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), has recently drawn global attention — not for its reputation as one of the world’s new Seven Wonders of Nature, nor as the habitat of an ancient reptile, the Komodo dragon, but for the spat over its management.
The NTT provincial administration has announced its plan to close the TNK to visitors for one year to increase the local population of Komodo dragons and deer, a key source of food for the dragons.
The administration has also voiced its intention to take over the park’s management from the Environment and Forestry Ministry, proposing a 50-fold admission fee increase for tourists to US$500, as well as the temporary closure of Komodo Island for renovations.
By law, the park is the responsibility of the central government, specifically the Environment and Forestry Ministry, including its management.
It is the only place in the world where visitors can watch Komodo dragons in their natural habitat, making the protected area among Indonesia’s most popular tourist destinations.
As the special report in today’s paper shows, the administration’s plans has led to increasing concerns, particularly among local stakeholders who asked the administration to first consult with residents of the areas that will be affected by the park’s closure, and to also consider its impact on the business climate in the region following reports of decreasing foreign and tourist arrivals in West Manggarai and Flores Island.
The closure will simultaneously affect the livelihood of travel agencies, tour guides and the West Manggarai community, who have been relying tourism.
In view of the NTT provincial administration’s plans and in regard to the local community’s demand for a thorough evaluation of the plans, the Environment and Forestry Ministry established an interministerial team to conduct a field survey in West Manggarai, the result of which is expected to be announced in August.
As the team is working on its survey, the NTT provincial administration should avoid making any statements or issuing any policies that may jeopardize the region’s tourism until a comprehensive and fair decision is made.