Indonesia will put a cap on the number of visitors to Komodo Island rather than close it off to tourists entirely, government officials announced Tuesday.
Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said the country will establish an annual membership system to help protect the island’s ecosystems and famed Komodo dragons.
“Komodo Island will not be closed. We will rearrange the island, in collaboration with the local government and related institutions,” said Pandjaitan in a statement. “A restriction will be placed on the number of tourists to Komodo Island by rearranging its ticketing system.”
Under the new system, those with a premium membership will be permitted to visit Komodo Island while those with a non-premium membership card will be directed to other nearby islands within Komodo National Park.
Officials did not say how much memberships will cost. Nonetheless, the new plan is good news for travelers hoping to experience the endangered animals up close.
Earlier this year, the Indonesian government announced that it was considering banning tourists from the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the wake of busting an alleged smuggling ring in which more than 40 Komodo dragons were captured and sold. In addition to thefts and poachers, visitors threaten the giant lizards by degrading their habitat, thus affecting their prey.
Komodo Island drew as many as 180,000 tourists last year, according to CNN Travel.
It’s estimated that about 1,700 dragons currently live on Komodo Island with another 1,000 roaming nearby Rinca Island.
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