THE INDONESIAN authorities have made the hard decision to completely shut down one of its most popular islands.
This comes after recent reports of people stealing and smuggling some of its famous residents.
Part of the Lesser Sunda chain of the Indonesian archipelago, the breathtakingly beautiful Komodo island is the largest of the 29 islands which form the Unesco-recognized Komodo National Park.
It boasts volcanic hills, thick lush forests, mangrove shrublands, and coral reefs. But it got its claim to fame for being the rugged habitat of the three-meter-long Komodo monitor lizard, otherwise known as the Komodo dragon.
For the uninitiated, the Komodo dragon is the world’s largest lizard and reptile, and it has been around for hundreds of thousands of years but was only discovered in the early 20th century. The dragons are identified by their size, flat heads, long thick tails, bowed legs, and fork-shaped tongues.
A fierce predator, these creatures can run and swim up to 20kph and have an excellent vision. It can kill a large water buffalo with the poison in its saliva by biting it. After which, the pray is completely shredded apart and devoured – with bones and all.
While the aggression of the majestic lizard is difficult to predict, the Komodo National Park is a major tourist attraction. It is home to over 3,000 dragons and four different trekking routes which can be explored on a guided tour.
Unfortunately, this chapter for tourists is about to close as Indonesian authorities will be barring visitors from January 2020.
According to a The Washington Post report, the Komodo dragons are being stolen and smuggled overseas for potentially for dubious medicinal purposes.
Nine men have been arrested on suspicion of selling more than 40 Komodo dragons for about US$35,000 each, local police told Tempo. Officials said the reptiles are “usually” sold to Asian buyers. According to the Indonesian police, those purchasing the dragons may seek to use them to create an antibiotic.
Komodo dragons are known for their highly venomous bite, which is so toxic that even a nip can be fatal. But these majestic animals also possess another unique trait which makes them a target for thieves and smugglers.
Their blood is packed with antimicrobial peptides, which is a built-in defense against infections produced by all living creatures. This also makes Komodo dragons immune to the bites of other Komodos, the same peptides some scientists believe could be harnessed into antibiotics to protect humans.