Sat, Nov 24, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Politician proposes US$500 fee to see Komodo dragons

AFP, KUPANG, Indonesia

Tourists keen for a close-up look at Komodo dragons in their natural habitat could be hit with an alarming bill, if one Indonesian politician gets his way.

Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat, the governor of East Nusa Tenggara Province, home to the world’s biggest lizard, has proposed charging visitors US$500 to see the endangered species, about 50 times the current entrance fee for foreign tourists at Komodo National Park.

If he prevails, the park would be off limits to all but “extraordinary” visitors with cash to burn.

“[Komodo dragons] are very unique, but sadly they come cheap,” he said in a speech to university administrators earlier this week.

“Only people with deep pockets are allowed to [see the Komodo dragons]. Those who don’t have the money shouldn’t visit the park, since it specifically caters to extraordinary people,” he added.

The governor — who also suggested recreational boats should be charged a US$50,000 entrance fee — said he would talk with the central government, which administers the national park.

The provincial government and Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry did not respond to requests for comment on the proposed fee hike.

Indonesian politicians have a long history of announcing plans that rarely come to pass, including a former drug czar’s proposal to build a prison surrounded by moats filled with piranhas and crocodiles to tighten security.

Thousands of tourists annually descend on the cluster of islands in eastern Indonesia that are the only place in the world where Komodo dragons can be seen in their natural habitat.

Previously, the government planned to limit the number of tourists over concerns that the influx was putting pressure on the environment and endangering the giant lizard’s habitat.

The slavering carnivores, which can grow to about 3m in length and weigh up to 70kg, can be dangerous to humans, although deadly attacks are rare.

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