Indonesia: Komodo population continues to decline at national park

Markus Makur, The Jakarta Post 5 Mar 16;

The population of the endangered Komodo dragon in Komodo National Park in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), continues to decrease according to the park’s management.

Park spokesperson Margareta Priska said on Friday that numbers had fallen from 3,222 in 2013 to 3,092 in 2014, with a further decrease to 3,014 in 2015.

She said the dragon currently only inhabited Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motang, Nusa Kode and Padar islands.

Separately, Achmad Ariefiandy, a researcher at the Komodo Survival Program Institution, told The Jakarta Post on Friday that the rare animals’ diminishing numbers had occurred particularly on smaller islands like Nusa Kode, Gili Motang and Padar.

“The population on the bigger islands such as Komodo and Rinca is relatively stable,” he said.

Achmad linked the declining numbers with the availability of the dragon’s prey, such as deer, which is also facing scarcity.

He therefore suggested that the government take security measures to minimize deer poaching.

The researcher also called on the government to consider reintroducing deer from Padar to Gili Motang.

Achmad noted that the dragons were also found outside the national park, including on Mbeliling Island in the southern part of West Manggarai and on Longos Island in northern West Manggarai.

His institution and the NTT Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) had conducted a survey on the population spread of the dragon in the northern part of Flores Island. It started in Labuan Bajo, the regency capital of West Manggarai, and ended in Sikka, the capital of Maumere regency.

The survey revealed that dragons were also found on Watu Payung Island in the East Manggarai regency, and both on Ontoloe and Riung islands in Ngada regency.

When asked whether he had found dead dragons in the national park during his research, Ariefiandy said he had found fewer than 10. They had died from old age, he explained.

Meanwhile, environmental activist Zakarias Samuel Sem of West Manggarai has pointed his finger at tourism, especially cruise ships, as a disruptive presence to the animal.

“We must work together to ensure a sustainable number of dragons in this province,” Zakarias said.

“The national park’s management should limit the number of tourists visiting the Komodo and Rinca islands, especially cruise ships,” Zakarias said.

The head of NTT BKSDA’s technical division, Maman Surahman, said that the population of Komodo dragons in a particular region fluctuated. The inventory team sometimes finds 10 to 15 in one area and then none in another area.

Surahman also urged locals to stop hunting the dragons’ food source, such as deer and swine, and not to release dogs in the woods because their presence disturbed the dragons’ habitat.

“We expect cooperation from all parties in East Nusa Tenggara for the preservation of this majestic creature,” he said.

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