To prevent illegal smuggling and selling of their precious and highly endangered Kimodo dragons, the Indonesian government has announced that it will temporarily close down the island of Komodo starting January 2020.
East Nusa Tenggara provincial administration spokesman Marius Jelamud made the announcement during a meeting with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, according to Tempo. The spokesman added that this closure is expected to stay into effect for at least 12 months.
Days before coming up with the decision, East Java Police arrested a smuggling ring responsible for taking 41 komodo dragons and selling them in the international black market for the price of 500 million rupiah ($35,200) each. Five baby komodos were also rescued during the operation.
“The criminals intended to ship the animals to three countries in Southeast Asia through Singapore,” head of the special crimes unit of the East Java Police, Senior Commander Akhmad Yusep Gunawan, told The Jakarta Post.
Then, in another location, authorities arrested five smugglers on Java for alleged trafficking of komodo dragons along with other animals including bearcats, cockatoos, and cassowaries. East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera said in a statement that these suspects sold the endangered komodo dragons through Facebook.
Police commissioner Rofiq Ripto Himawan, meanwhile, said that komodo dragons were usually smuggled overseas to buyers in Asia.
“These animals are sold for traditional medicine. Komodo dragons could be used to make an antibiotic,” he told Channel News Asia.
Komodo dragons, which is considered as the world’s largest lizard, are listed as one of the most endangered species on the planet, according to Vice. The only place where visitors can see the dragons in their natural habitat is at the UNESCO World Heritage Komodo National Park, in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.
The park will remain open throughout 2020, but officials will launch a conservation program on Komodo that will help support the local dragon population.