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Tourism to be restricted, but not banned, on Indonesia's Komodo island

Tourism to be restricted, but not banned, on Indonesia’s Komodo island

Indonesian officials on Thursday backtracked on plans to bar tourists from visiting the rugged Komodo Island, home to the eponymous giant lizards.

But the price for entry will jump to $1,000 for a year-long “membership” to access the area, BBC News reported. Now tourists pay $10 to visit the island.

Officials reversed plans to shut visitors out of the island — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — for a year in order to preserve the wildlife, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan told local media this week.

“Komodo Island will not be closed,” Pandjaitan said in a statement to the state news agency Antara. Instead, “a restriction will be placed on the number of tourists to Komodo Island by rearranging its ticketing system.”

In July, East Nusa Tenggara Governor Viktor Laiskodat announced plans to close the island in order to stop people from interfering in the animals’ mating and hatching processes, and to cut the risk of poaching of the reptiles’ prey, including deer, buffalo and wild boar.

The government said it would to invest over $7 million to protect wildlife and establish a research center on the island, Antara reported. Rehabilitation plans are still going ahead.

Komodo dragons are the largest lizards in the world, reaching up to 10 feet in length, and are listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. But the environment ministry has said that the population of the dragons has remained relatively stable since 2002.

More than 176,000 tourists visited Komodo National Park in 2018, with many visitors coming just to see the nearly 2,000 dragons that live on the island.

It’s not the first instance a southeast Asian nation has restricted access to its beaches in response to extreme levels of tourism.

Thai officials banned tourists from visiting Maya Bayon Phi Phi Leh Island in May 2018 after the site made popular by Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie “The Beach” was overrun by travelers. A year after announcing the ban, officials told NBC News that the gleaming shoreline was likely to reopen to visitors in 2021.