The Indonesian government has announced its plans to close the island of Komodo to tourists next year, because people kept stealing the dragons.
Earlier in April, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry met with East Nusa Tenggara provincial administration spokesman Marius Jelamud and declared the temporary 12-month shutdown of the Komodo Island in January 2020, according to reports by Tempo.
The decision to close the island came days after the East Java Police seized 41 komodo dragons from a smuggling ring, where the animals were meant to be sold on international black market for 500 million rupiah, or about $50,000 per piece.
“The criminals intended to ship the animals to three countries in Southeast Asia through Singapore,” Akhmad Yusep Gunawan, senior commander and special crimes united head of the East Java Police, told reporters, according to The Jakarta Post.
He added that five baby komodos were among those that have been rescued from the animal traffickers.
Meanwhile, other five smugglers were arrested for allegedly illegally selling the dragons, along with bearcats, cockatoos, and cassowaries.
“These animals are sold for traditional medicine,” Rofiq Ripto Himawan, police commissioner, told Channel News Asia. “Komodo dragons could be used to make an antibiotic.”
Komodo dragons, known as the world’s largest lizard, are one of the most endangered species in the world.
While the remainder of this year will allow tourists to visit the Komodo National Park, authorities will be closing the gates on Komodo to launch a conservation program and help sustain the dragon’s population. There are about 5,700 komodos in the park.