Indonesia's Komodo dragon island to stay open for tourism, for a price

Indonesia has shelved a plan to temporarily close the island home of the Komodo dragon, but will instead give exclusive access to those willing to dig deeper into their wallets, a local government official says.

A meeting of several cabinet ministers and the governor of East Nusa Tenggara province, of which Komodo Island is part, decided on Monday to turn the island into a premium tourism destination, said Semuel Pakerang, a spokesman for the provincial government.

"Komodo Island is going to be made exclusive, which means visitors will have to pay a premium to enter," Pakerang said on Tuesday.

The provincial government had proposed the closure as part of conservation efforts to allow the planting of more trees and more food to grow for the giant lizard.

Such a closure would have affected only Komodo Island, not the larger area that makes up Komodo National Park.

Komodo National Park, home to more than 5000 Komodo dragons, is listed by National Geographic as one of the world's top 10 destinations. It receives more than 10,000 visitors per month.

Last year, East Nusa Tenggara's governor proposed that visitors be charged $US500 ($A740) to enter the island, in order to boost the prestige of the conservation area.

Visitors are currently charged 150,000 rupiah ($A15) for access to the park.

The government has floated the idea of limiting access to only 5000 visitors per month in an effort to ramp up security following a fire last year believed to have been sparked by a tourist's improperly discarded cigarette.

DPA

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