Indonesia’s Own Jurassic Park: The Komodo National Park and Its Controversies

Authors:Harsh Mahaseth and Samyuktha Karthikeyan*

Jurassic Park directed by Steven Spielberg is a class movie. Since the release of the movie, numerous people have hoped and wished to experience a real-life Dino-park. Well, Indonesia is planning to have one! With the Komodo Dragons in the spotlight.

Indonesia’s President, Joko Widodo, with a goal to eradicate poverty, increased infrastructure immensely in Indonesia when he was first elected in 2014. This not only drastically changed the country’s appearance but also the economy.  Later on, with a mission to bring the country within the world’s top 5 largest economies, President Jokowi introduced vision 2045 in 2019. The one sector Indonesia could rely on to boost this much-needed economy is the tourism sector. The country is home to remarkable flora and fauna, unimaginable landscapes, and well-rooted culture.

One important project that the Government has decided to work on is the Komodo National Park. This UNESCO recognized World Heritage Centre, is located in the centre of the Indonesian archipelago, between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores, which is composed of three major islands Rinca, Komodo, and Padar, and numerous smaller volcanic ones.  It is home to thousands of giant lizards, whose behaviour and aggressive appearance have led to them being called ‘Komodo Dragons’. Their existence is unique to these islands that are perfect for their survival. The park also protects the extensive marine environment around the islands, with sparkly corals, whales, dolphins etc and has attracted several backpackers from Bali since the 1990s.  

While, tourism and pollution that comes with it, already seem to affect the park, the new infrastructure measures have increased the destruction. The planned construction of a resort on Rinca Island has sparked concerns over illegal fishing, pollution, and the deterioration of the health of the Komodo Dragons. Many native Indonesians and those living in nearby villages have raised protests over the massive destruction of trees in the park. With pictures of construction workers violating the habitat of the Komodo Dragons surfacing, numerous ecologists and reformists have expressed anger towards the Government. It is believed that increasing numbers of tourists will affect the animals’ mating habits. There are also concerns about poachers targeting Komodo Dragons and deers, their main prey. In fact, these concerns are not new, they had surfaced a couple of years back too, leading to discussions regarding banning tourist visitation in 2018 as 176000 enthusiasts visited the park that year.

As the construction at the park triggered outpouring anger amongst Indonesians, Wiratno, a senior environment ministry official, said rangers would ensure the safety of dragons roaming near the construction, which will include an elevated deck, a dam and an information centre, to be completed in June 2022. He said, they will intensively make checks of whether the Komodo dragons are under the buildings, remnants of buildings, and under the trucks carrying material.

UNESCO has provided a statement on this Rinca Island project. They have confirmed that the authorities did not inform them, regarding the expansion plans, as they are required to do so by operational guidelines. At the organization’s request, Indonesia had submitted a report. After reviewing the same UNESCO has requested the Government to not continue with the project. The Komodo Dragons are endangered species and it is unknown what will happen if this project continues.

*Samyuktha Karthikeyan is a student of O.P. Jindal Global University, India.

Harsh Mahaseth
Harsh Mahaseth
Harsh Mahaseth is an Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean (Academic Affairs) at Jindal Global Law School, and the Assistant Director of the Nehginpao Kipgen Center for Southeast Asian Studies at O.P. Jindal Global University, India.