Back in 2020, the Indonesian government announced its plans to create what it termed as a premium tourist spot on the island of Rinca, one of three isles included in Komodo National Park, a preserve for the Komodo dragon, the world’s largest type of lizard. Not much was thought about this until a photo of a Komodo lizard standing in front of a truck on Rinca went viral online. Social media dubbed the Indonesian project a “Jurassic Park” and expressed concerns on its environmental impact. After some time with no word, an environment official from that country announced that the project is still on track.

InterAksyon-Philstar reports that the tourism projects being undertaken by the government of Indonesia in their Komodo National Park island of Rinca is continuing development. This was revealed this past Thursday, August 5, by Indonesia’s environment ministry senior official Wiratno. “This project will proceed… it’s been proven to have no impact,” says Wiratno, in contrast to concerns by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that the initiative being dubbed “Jurassic Park” on social media could have an adverse effect on the park’s wildlife population of Komodo dragons. Komodo National Park is also a designation UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A separate pronouncement from Wiratno clarifies that the tourist project specifically only comprises of renovation efforts to existing park structures and that the activity does not negatively impact Rinca’s Komodo lizards, of which about 3,100 in total live in Indonesia. UNESCO however is insisting on an updated environmental assessment for the project, which they fear for not just the natural habitat of the world’s largest lizards but also in the potential for illegal fishing operations just offshore of the island. Wiratno notes that the government is looking at a new assessment that could be prepared by September, but will offer no further clarification on it.

Overseas observers like UNESCO are not the only ones worrying. Local organization the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) also expressed concerns. Their focus is on the local human population, many of which have lived on the islands of the national park alongside the Komodo dragons without significant friction or environmental impact “We urge the government to develop tourism that’s based on the people,” says WALHI spokesperson Rima Melani Bilaut. “There are people living there.”

Image courtesy of BBC