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Endangered Komodo dragon population sparks conservation efforts

An estimated 4,000 to 5,000 Komodo dragons face endangerment in Indonesia, prompting urgent conservation actions to safeguard this iconic species.

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INDONESIA: The population of the iconic Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), a unique and ancient species endemic to Indonesia, is under threat, prompting concerted efforts to protect and conserve these remarkable creatures.

Komodo dragons are the largest extant species of lizard, growing to a maximum length of 3 m and weighing up to 70 kg.

Recent estimates suggest that only between 4,000 and 5,000 Komodo dragons remain, primarily inhabiting various regions on Flores Island and within the Komodo National Park in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).

Emeraldo Parengkuan, the General Manager of Taman Safari Indonesia – the Indonesian animal theme park – revealed the distribution of this dwindling population.

The majority of these dragons, approximately 1,700 individuals, reside on Komodo Island, followed by 1,300 on Rinca Island, and smaller populations on Gili Motang and Gili Dasami.

Flores Island is home to around 2,000 Komodo dragons. Alarmingly, it is estimated that only 350 productive females capable of breeding remain within this population.

In response to these concerning numbers, the Indonesian government established the Komodo National Park in 1980 to safeguard the Komodo dragon population and the ecosystems of several islands, including Komodo, Rinca, and Padar.

Additionally, the Wae Wuul and Wolo Tado Nature Reserves on Flores Island were designated to aid in Komodo conservation.

Panoramic view of the beach and tourist boats on Kelor Island, Komodo National Park, Labuan Bajo. (Photo: KOMPAS.com)

Emeraldo Parengkuan emphasized the need for continued support from the government, local and international communities, as well as intellectuals in the conservation efforts of the Komodo dragons.

He made this statement after releasing six Komodo dragons into the Wae Wuul Nature Reserve in Labuan Bajo on Saturday (23 Sep).

These six dragons were the result of breeding efforts by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) in collaboration with the Natural Resource Conservation Center of NTT and the Taman Safari Bogor conservation organization, with support from Smelting Inc.‘s – first copper smelter and refinery in Indonesia – conservation program.

Jansen Manansang, Director of Taman Safari Indonesia (TSI), reiterated their commitment to preserving the Komodo dragons, emphasizing the species’ protected status under Indonesian law.

TSI has undertaken various conservation and habituation efforts to ensure the dragon population remains stable, with the goal of allowing future generations to witness these majestic creatures.

Ryuichi Hasegawa, Executive Vice President (EVP) Director of Smelting Inc., affirmed the company’s commitment to environmental conservation and its collaboration with Taman Safari Indonesia on protecting endangered Indonesian wildlife.

He cited their successful conservation efforts with the Javan Hawk Eagle, which was released back into its natural habitat in January 2023, as an example of their dedication to preserving endemic Indonesian flora and fauna.

The Komodo dragon is one of Indonesia’s most iconic and globally recognized endemic species. Its primary habitat is Komodo Island, recognized by UNESCO as one of the Seven Wonders of the World that demands protection.

This unique reptile, classified as a monitor lizard, holds a special place in the hearts of both local and international tourists and researchers.

The Komodo dragon is often used as a national and international symbol for Indonesia, drawing visitors to the Komodo National Park throughout the year.

Beyond its iconic status, the Komodo dragon is a truly unique creature. As one of the world’s oldest living species, it boasts exceptional adaptability, including swimming and tree-climbing abilities, though it is known for its occasional cannibalistic tendencies.

Efforts to preserve the Komodo dragon are not only vital for the conservation of this ancient species but also for maintaining Indonesia’s rich biodiversity and cultural heritage.

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