Indonesia eyes komodo dragon island closure to thwart smuggling

Visitors trek the hills on Rinca island, home of the Komodo dragon, in the Komodo National Park in this December 3, 2010 file photo. (AFP)
Updated 04 April 2019
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Indonesia eyes komodo dragon island closure to thwart smuggling

  • The proposed closure would start from 2020 but does not apply to nearby islands where the giant lizards are also found
  • Komodo Island is home to some 2,300 dragons, which can grow to around three meters in length

JAKARTA: Indonesia may temporarily shut an island that is home to komodo dragons in a bid to fix problems created by mass tourism and thwart attempts to smuggle the world’s biggest lizard, the local tourism agency said Thursday.
The proposed closure, which is awaiting central government approval, would start from 2020 but does not apply to nearby islands where the giant, slavering carnivores are also found, the agency said.
Thousands of tourists annually descend on the cluster of islands in the eastern part of the sprawling archipelago nation — the only place in the world where komodo dragons can be seen in their natural habitat.
Komodo Island is home to some 2,300 dragons, which can grow to around three meters (10 feet) in length. An adult typically weighs from 70 to 90 kilograms (150 to 200 pounds).
“Mass tourism is already happening on Komodo Island and it’s really disturbing,” local tourism agency head Marius Ardu Jelamu said.
“When there are too many tourists in sensitive areas like Komodo National Park, the dragons can be adversely affected,” he added.
Jakarta has agreed in principle to temporarily shutter the national park, Jelamu said.
During the proposed closure, conservationists would work to rehabilitate endemic plants and boost the number of deer, boars and other natural prey.
“We want Komodo Island to be like the Galapagos islands... so we need to rehabilitate the flora and fauna,” Jelamu said.
The move would also include tighter visitor quotas and a new ticketing system that would require tourists to book online ahead of time rather than paying on the spot.
Last year, the provincial governor sparked a controversy when he proposed charging visitors $500 to see the dragons, about 50 times the current entrance fee.
Security would be tightened to prevent bids to smuggle the endangered lizard, Jelamu said Thursday.
Last week, police in East Java foiled an attempt to smuggle five komodo dragons, and arrested a group of traffickers linked to the case.
Those dragons were not smuggled from the national park, however, according to the environment ministry.


Macron meets Syrian Kurds, vows French support in fight against Daesh

Updated 26 min 12 sec ago
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Macron meets Syrian Kurds, vows French support in fight against Daesh

  • Macron assured the SDF representatives, who were not named, of the "active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security"
  • European capitals are all keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the extremists, given many are dual nationals

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron on Friday hosted representatives of the Kurdish-led force that defeated Daesh extremists in Syria, assuring them of France's support in the fight against remaining extremists.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had in late March flushed out Daesh from their last bastion in Syria but still warn the terrorists remain a threat in places.
The SDF is an umbrella force of Kurds and Arabs dominated by Kurds from the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia. It is regarded with huge distrust by neighbouring Turkey which sees the YPG as a terror group.
Macron assured the SDF representatives, who were not named, of the "active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security," the presidency said in a statement.
Particularly important was the support in the "handling of terrorist fighters held as prisoners along with their families."
European capitals are all keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the extremists, given many are dual nationals.
Macron also vowed that financial support would be allocated to "respond to the humanitarian needs and the socio-economic stabilisation of civilian populations in Syria."
The SDF were the key ally of the West in defeating Daesh and waged the bulk of the fighting on the ground.
But they fear being abandoned by their patrons now Daesh is beaten, after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had in April announced one million euros ($1.1 million) in humanitarian aid for camps housing displaced people, notably Al-Hol which holds thousands of women and children who lived in Daesh-held areas.
France's past contacts with the SDF's Syrian Kurds have angered Turkey, which regards the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The PKK has waged a 35-year insurrection against the Turkish state.
Macron also made clear of the importance to Paris of "the security of Turkey and a de-escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border," the presidency said.