JAKARTA, Indonesia (ANN): The East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Tourism Agency announced on Thursday that Komodo Island is to close by the beginning of 2020.
"It is definite; we have decided to close Komodo Island next year," said its head Wayan Darmawa, as reported by Antara news agency.
The closure is intended for the environmental rehabilitation of the island and to improve the conservation efforts for the Komodo dragons.
Wayan said the decision was made by the NTT administration and Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry on Wednesday (July 17), adding that president Joko Widodo had agreed to the matter.
On his visit to Labuan Bajo on July 10 and 11, Jokowi said there should be a visitor limit on the island considering it was a conservation area.
He suggested nearby Rinca Island as an alternative for visitors wishing to see Komodo dragons. The island is also a natural habitat of the dragon and is part of the Komodo National Park.
NTT governor Viktor B Laiskodat said the administration would provide a budget of Rp 100 billion (RM29.48mil) for the island's rehabilitation.
On Wednesday, the plan was met with a protest from residents in West Manggarai regency in front of the regency office, regional council office and the Komodo National Park Agency.
The protesters objected to the plan to remove residents from the island, as proposed by the governor.
Ihsan Abdul Amir, one of the protesters, said that residents living within the national park had supported the island's conservation efforts and tourism development for years.
"We have long been involved in the conservation-based tourism. The island's closure will deprive us of our source of income," said Ihsan said as quoted by kompas.com.
Ihsan added that the residents have relinquished their lands to the Komodo National Park and switched professions to the tourism sector. – The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network