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FORESTS NEWS
In-depth   /   3 Mar 2020

Komodo tourism:
More than just dragons

The future of visitors and wildlife preservation

Tourism and local livelihoods: Two sides of the conservation coin in Komodo National Park.

Tourist boats anchor near the shore of Padar Island. Boats should be prevented from mooring in the cove or beaching on the island because they could damage the coral reef. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR
Tourist boats anchor near the shore of Padar Island. Boats should be prevented from mooring in the cove or beaching on the island because they could damage the coral reef. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR
Tourist boats anchor near the shore of Padar Island. Boats should be prevented from mooring in the cove or beaching on the island because they could damage the coral reef. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR
Tourist boats anchor near the shore of Padar Island. Boats should be prevented from mooring in the cove or beaching on the island because they could damage the coral reef. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Why do people visit national parks ?

Well, in the case of Indonesia’s Komodo National Park, the reasons people visit have a lot to do with the three-meter-long, 70-kilogram poisonous lizard that can be found in the wild nowhere else on Earth: the Komodo dragon.

Unfortunately for both the dragons and the park that’s named after them, their growing popularity may be putting them at some risk.
Visitor numbers have been steadily increasing, even as the lizard population has remained stable. That stability is good news.

Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry, which manages the park, points to it as proof that closing the whole park temporarily to tourists and residents or raising entrance fees to unaffordable heights are not necessary to protect the species.

However, that doesn’t mean the ministry has not always taken measures to mitigate the harm tourists could make to Komodo dragons.

“Impact on the national park has already been minimized,” says the head of Komodo National Park, Lukita Awang. “Of about the 173,000 hectares of the national park, not more than two percent are open for tourism.”

Such efforts are necessary. While Komodo dragon numbers throughout the park are estimated to be between 2,400 and 3,000, that figure is dwarfed by others: In 2018, the ministry recorded 176,834 visits to the park and that increased to 221,703 the following year.

According to Komodo National Park ranger Muhammad Ikbal Putera, who researched the issue of tourism and parks for the University of Florida, with financial support from USAID, which funded the USAID-CIFOR Fellowship program, and published the results as a Master’s thesis in 2019, one-third of the 289 park visitors surveyed were from other parts of Indonesia and, of those from abroad, citizens of the United Kingdom and the United States predominated.
Most of the remainder came from various Northern European countries and, notably, Argentina.

Ikbal Putera’s survey discovered that most of the visitors, both foreign and domestic, were the type who liked to explore the world for learning and excitement.
What primarily drew them to Komodo National Park was “destination authenticity”, followed by “wildlife uniqueness and safety” and “attractiveness of destination”.
Herein lies both the risk and the solution.

 

“Komodo National Park should create monitoring programs to preserve the authenticity value and maintain the quality of Komodo National Park scenic landscape,” the ranger wrote in his thesis.

“This highlights that seeing Komodo dragons in their natural and authentic habitat is an important factor as to why tourists travel to this remote region of the world.

 

Impacts that detract from the naturalness and authenticity of the area should be considered a primary threat against this motivation.

For example, waste is becoming an inseparable part to the scenic landscape in the park, such as floating garbage in the seas and shores.”

What that means is that while the Komodo dragons themselves might be protected in their tourist-exclusion zones from visitors, the attractiveness of the park itself and, consequently, the revenues collected by the government and the livelihoods of the 2,000 or so people who live on the various islands could be jeopardized if the natural environment is further degraded and loses its appeal.

 

The local economy changed when the park was established in 1980, but the residents of the islands within its boundaries might not be able to adapt again so easily.

“We used to be fishermen, now we own an art shop,” says one local.

“When visitors come here, they spend anywhere between $15 and $70.”

 

Consequently, as Ikbal Putera points out, the task of better caring for the land and seas of Komodo National Park is not just the responsibility of the park authorities, but is in the interest of all stakeholders, including tourists and residents. 

 

 

Consequently, as Ikbal Putera points out, the task of better caring for the land and seas of Komodo National Park is not just the responsibility of the park authorities, but is in the interest of all stakeholders, including tourists and residents. 

Story development and script: Dominique Lyon, Michael Friis Johansen | Video and photos:Mohammad Edliadi | Video editing: Mohammad Edliadi, Aris Sanjaya | Infographics: Danil Rahadian, Muhammad Ikbal | Web design: Gusdiyanto | Project coordination: Budhy Kristanty | Production editor: Jeremy van Loon

This research was made possible through the financial support from USAID, who funded the USAID-CIFOR Fellowship program that supported Muhammad Ikbal to pursue his Master’s degree at the University of Florida.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.


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This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.
Copyright policy:
We want you to share Forests News content, which is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). This means you are free to redistribute our material for non-commercial purposes. All we ask is that you give Forests News appropriate credit and link to the original Forests News content, indicate if changes were made, and distribute your contributions under the same Creative Commons license. You must notify Forests News if you repost, reprint or reuse our materials by contacting forestsnews@cgiar.org.
Topic(s) :   Community forestry Rights