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Dragon Island Bans Tourists

Poachers have been stealing Komodo dragons
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2019 4:21 AM CDT
A Komodo dragon walks on a beach on Komodo island, Indonesia   (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
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(Newser) – An Indonesian island home to one of the world's most fearsome lizards is banning tourists to help the population recover from poaching. The Indonesian government says Komodo island, home to the Komodo dragon, will be off-limits to tourists starting in Jan. 2020, Tempo reports. The move, which is expected to last at least a year, will allow conservation authorities to plant more vegetation and increase the numbers of both the dragons and the deer that they prey on, reports the Guardian. Other parts of the Komodo national park will remain open, including another island with a population of Komodo dragons. The move follows the arrest of five people suspected of selling at least 41 Komodo dragons, which are believed to number fewer than 5,000 in the wild.

The animal, which can grow to be up to 10 feet long, has a highly venomous bite, which may be part of the reason why poachers can sell them for around $35,000 each, experts say. They have evolved an extremely strong defense against infections, including those from the bites of other dragons. Some believe this could be used to help create antibiotics for humans, though Bryan Fry, an associate professor at University of Queensland’s school of biological sciences, tells the Washington Post that it would take many years of research to isolate the compounds involved, and they would still probably cause violent allergic reactions. "If this is in fact what is fueling the trade, it is in the same destructive fantasy land as the Asian appetite for rhino horns as aphrodisiacs," he says. (A tourist found out the hard way that you should never disturb a Komodo dragon when it is eating.)

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