Jakarta: The Indonesian island of Komodo, home to the Komodo dragon, will not be closed to tourists next year as it previously planned, but a $1,000 membership scheme will be introduced, authorities said on Tuesday. It reverses a July announcement that the island would close in January 2020 to protect the dragons and their habitat, the BBC reported.
It was due to re-open after a year, but on Monday, the Ministry of Environment and the region's Governor, Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat agreed that that the island would not close, and that a membership system will now be introduced, at a cost of $1,000.
Currently, tourists pay around $10 to enter the island. State news agency Antara said there would be two membership levels. Premium members will be allowed to visit Komodo island, while non-premium members will be able to visit other islands in the Komodo national park, where dragons also live.
Marius Jelamu, spokesman for Laiskodat, told the BBC that precise details were still being worked out. In July, the Governor said the island needed to be closed to stop tourism from interfering in the mating and hatching processes of the komodo dragon population.
Last year, 176,000 people visited Komodo, up from 44,000 people in 2008. Komodo dragons are the world's largest lizards. They can grow up to 3 metres long and have razor-sharp teeth and a poisonous bite.
Most of them - around 1,700 - live on Komodo Island, and around 1,000 more live on Rinca, another island in the national park. The national park as a whole is a Unesco World Heritage site.