Natural paradises in danger to be saved: Komodo National Park



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Natural paradises in danger to be saved: Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park is an Indonesian protected natural area located near the small Sunda Islands in the region enclosed between the provinces of East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara. The park includes the three islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar, as well as other smaller islands.

The national park was created on March 6, 1980 in order to protect the Komodo monitor. It was later used to defend other species, some of them marine. The islands that make up the park are of volcanic origin. About 4000 people live inside the park.

In 1991 it was included among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Diving is popular in Komodo due to the high marine biodiversity, which includes whale sharks, sunfish, giant manta rays, stingrays, seahorses, ghost pipefish, clown frogfish, nudibranchs, blue sucker octopuses, sponges, tunicates and corals.

Since 1995, the park authorities have been aided by The Nature Conservancy, an American environmental organization. A new management plan was co-operated in 2000. Special interest in marine species was used due to commercial fishing communities operating from outside the park.

Rules and restrictions mainly impact the internal residents of the park who live off what the park offers them. The development of responsible tourism is the main strategy that should make the park economically self-sufficient thanks to tourism taxes and licenses.

For this reason, a joint venture has been created between TNC and a tour operator to which the concession has been assigned and which, among other things, traces the management rights of the park. This concession has created controversy.

The joint venture has been accused of making decisions behind closed doors, and many Komodo people would claim to be consulted about decisions that affect their lives. Much of the controversy has been caused by the deaths of numerous fishermen since the 1980s.

The circumstances of their death are unclear. While park guards (including police and navy) say they acted in self-defense, fishing communities accuse the rangers of deliberately killing them (Down to Earth 2003). Komodo National Park remains an experience that causes some fear to tourists, as the conflict between TNC and local communities shows no signs of abating.

Today Komodo National Park has finally achieved international fame: on 11 November 2011 it was declared one of the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World.