Indonesian Dragon Island to close for a year

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Authorities have prepared a conservation programme to protect Komodo’s giant lizards

Travellers eager to see the famous Komodo dragons — giant lizards capable of eating a whole boar at once — will have to give them some time alone first.

The iconic Komodo dragon needs some privacy to increase its numbers — ShutterstockThe iconic Komodo dragons need some privacy to increase their numbers — Shutterstock

From January 2020, Komodo Island, after which the animals bear their name, will be temporarily closed to visitors. According to local media, the government will ban access as a part of a conservation programme to increase the iconic lizards’ population.

The Indonesian island will be inaccessible for 12 months to let the dragons thrive uninterrupted with the aim of raising the number to 5,000 specimens.

The move follows a recent incident of a smuggling ring allegedly stealing 41 lizards and selling them abroad for more than $35,000 (Rp500 million) each.

Komodo Island is the only place to see the giant lizards in their natural habitat

Komodo Island belongs to the Komodo National Park that also includes Padar, Rinca and 26 other smaller islands. It is the only place in the world where it is still possible to see the lizards in their natural habitat. In 2018 alone, 10,250 travellers visited the park,  of which 95 per cent were foreigners.

 The dragons can grow to a length of up to three metres and weigh up to 70 kilograms — ShutterstockThe dragons can grow to a length of up to three metres and weigh up to 70 kilograms — Shutterstock

Out of the whole archipelago, only Komodo Island will close completely. However, the authorities aim to cap the overall visitor number to 5,000 per year. The measure follows an incident of a tossed cigarette causing a fire which destroyed ten hectares of land last summer.

Komodo dragons — also known as Komodo monitors — belong to the Varanidae family and are currently the largest living species of lizard in the world. They can grow to a length of up to three metres and weigh up to 70 kilograms.

The venomous giants are very successful hunters and enjoy any type of meat from small rodents to large water buffalos. Their most preferred type of prey is reportedly deer. However, they are slow runners reaching a maximum speed of up to 20 kph. So there is a good chance you could outrun them.