In grandfather’s day, you just left a piece of deer for the dragon. Now, locals working for Komodo National Park have their hands full protecting the environment from threats like bombs and deliberate cyanide poisoning. It is a tough and sometimes controversial job, but their efforts are making a huge difference.
People here have been looking out for Komodo dragons for centuries. Because they revered the enormous lizards, locals traditionally left a portion of the hunt behind for the ancient beasts. Local taboo prohibited harming a Komodo dragon. As a result of this spirit of conservation, Komodo National Park is only place the Komodo Dragons have survived. A few decades ago, the government formalized protection for the lizards and extended that protection to the marine environment.
History of Komodo National Park
While the locals observed varying degrees of protection of their own including some formal legal protections as far back as 1938, official protection of the Komodo National Park by the national government was established by Minsterial Decree in 1980. Then the government quickly expanded Komodo Park from 72,000 hectares to 219,322 hectares. The expansion added 130,177 hectares of marine reserve, forming the Komodo Biosphere Reserve and National Park, which is 70% water. This immense conservation area protects key habitat and bio-diversity at the center of the Coral Triangle.
In 1986, two years after the Komodo Marine Conservation Area was added to the park, the UN declared the Komodo National Park a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve Site. Five years later in 1991, UNESCO declared the Komodo National Park to be a World Heritage Site.
Marine Bio-Diversity in Komodo National Park
And it is no wonder. The waters of Komodo National Park provide a safe environment for 260 species of coral and 70 varieties of sponges. Over 1,000 species of bony fishes along with mollusks, crustaceans, turtles, dolphins, whales, dugongs, and invertebrates round out the amazing underwater bio-diversity in the park.
Here is a very partial Komodo National Park species list:
Frogfish, waspfish, indian walkman, Spanish mackerel, tuna, napoleons, mantas, coleman shrimps, crinoid shrimps, zebra crabs, ghost pipefish, decorator crabs, moray eels, cuttlefish, seahorses, feather stars, scorpion fish, frogfish, lots of species of octopus, fusiliers, surgeon fish, flatworms, turtles, sea snakes, bumphead parrotfish, nudibranches, and literally over 1,000 more.
Population Growth in Komodo National Park
Population has grown immensely in the Komodo Islands over the last 100 years. In the 1930s, there were less than 100 people in Komodo village and around 250 total on Rinca Island. By 1999, the population of Komodo grew to over 1,000. The total population of the park is now over 3,000 with another 16,000 or so people living nearby. With few economic alternatives, more people yields more risk of environmentally destructive resource harvesting practices.
Threats to Komodo National Park
Direct human activity is the biggest threat to the park, outside the long term threat of global warming and coral bleaching. Local fishing practice might seem to the main culprit, but remember: where there is a seller, there is a buyer. The markets for the fish are arguably as much or more to blame for environmental impacts of destructive, unsustainable fishing practices. Mark you: these fishing methods are good for no one. Not even the people who practice them. Because they are working themselves out of a job every day they go out to destroy the resource that they rely on.
The environment in the park continues to thrive. But park authorities must remain vigilant to protect the health of the coral reef and the ecosystem that depends on it. Here are a few of the biggest threats.
This destructive practice eliminates reef by literally blowing it up. Fisherman mix fertilizer chemicals and kerosone in beer bottles and explode the home made bombs on reefs to stun schooling fish. Tragically, a single bottle bottom can wipe out a 5 meter circle of reef. Fortunately, governments are catching on. Environmental research and advocacy organizations have shown that blast fishing cause $100,000 in economic losses for every square kilometer people are allowed to do it.
Cyanide fishing divers use simple rigs involving a hose to the surface and a compressor called “hookah compressors”. The divers scour the sea floor for their targets – species for the live food fish trade and the aquarium trade. They chase their prey to holes in the reef, then stun it by squirting it with cyanide. Once they have stunned the fish, they dig into the reef to retrieve it.
For eons people have walked on the shallow reef, picking through the coral on low tide for delicious and weird things to eat. Now, the hookah compressor allows reef gleaners to slowly make their way through underwater reef. As the pay they reduce it to rubble with crowbars in their quest for abalone and other invertebrates.
Live Reef Fish Trade
The demand for live reef fish has been booming since the 1990s. Indonesia is the largest supplier of live caught food fish, providing over 50% of live fish. Restauranteurs present the fish in tanks in and serve them to customers for $100s of dollars per serving. The people who pay for this privilege are paying to destroy irreplaceable habitat. Cyanide fishing damages the coral. Over-fishing of adults and depletion of juveniles threatens the very existence of the target species.
Mantra Guests Support Komodo National Park
When you book a cabin to sail to the Komodo Islands for a liveaboard adventure with Mantra, or reserve a private Komodo charter voyage you will contribute to conservation efforts in the park. Each day we will collect a fee of € 10 per person per day to pass along to the park management. When you come to the Komodo, you will encounter a pristine and thriving environment. We applaud the government and the people of Indonesia and their efforts to preserve this amazing resource.
Dreaming of an exotic sailing and diving adventure in paradise? Find out about Komodo dive sites or get an idea of the Komodo liveaboard trip experience and then come join us for a voyage you will remember forever.