Flores Dragons Coming Here Despite Protests
LEGIAN ~ Plans to move 10 Flores komodo dragons from their East Tenggara Nusa home to the Safari and Marine Park in Bali will go ahead despite protests from Flores people and environmentalists.
The Flores dragons, smaller than the Komodo Island and Rinca dragons, which are the world’s largest monitor lizards, but of the same species, need to move to ensure the distinctive population survives, according to Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban.
“The number of Komodo dragons on Flores Island is cause for concern. Therefore, we need to take care of them and help them to breed,” Kaban said.
“If we let them breed naturally, I’m afraid they will die out before they are able to breed,” he said, confirming the move would go ahead.
“What’s more, the chances of a dragon hatchling living a full life (in its natural environment) would be very small.”
Ministry officials say the move is a temporary measure to protect the Komodo dragon, an endangered species, and help them multiply.
There are about 2,500 Komodo dragons in their original habitats on Komodo and Rinca islands between Sumbawa and Flores, while only 17 were left in the Wae Wuul nature conservancy area in West Manggarai, Flores.
The ministry issued a decree in May authorising relocation of five female and five male Flores dragons to Bali, leaving only seven at Wae Wuul.
Minister Kaban said the Flores dragons were preying on domestic goats because their habitat was virtually eaten out of prey.
“They are cannibals. If they don’t have any food to eat, they will eat each other,” he said.
The minister also questioned why people opposed the plan, saying it was aimed at saving the dragons. After the population had grown large enough, it would be returned to Flores.
A leading environmental watchdog, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), opposes the plan. The director of its Bali chapter, Agung Wardhana, says it has negative environmental and social ramifications.
The plan has also drawn protests from people in West Manggarai, who fear that it could harm tourism prospects.
Protests have spread further afield. About 30 students from the Indonesian Muslim Students Association recently staged a rally in Mataram, Lombok, the seat of the government of neighbouring West Nusa Tenggara.
“Why must they be moved to Bali? Why aren’t they bred at their habitat? As rare animals, the Komodo dragons can only live in their habitat,” the news agency Antara quoted one of the protesters, Syaiful, as saying.
Minister Kaban says Taman Safari would meet the substantial cost of moving and caring for the dragons.
He gave no estimate of these costs, but cited a case in which it had cost Rp2.8 billion ($285,000) to send five endangered Sumatran tigers from Aceh to Lampung.Filed under: Headlines