Another likely reason for the cancellation of this plan is rooted in the major upgrade to Labuan Bajo’s airport
. The town, on the island of Flores, is the major launching point for cruises into Komodo National Park. Previously it could handle some 150,000 passengers annually; that has now been increased to 1.5 million, and the vast majority of them will be heading to see the Komodo dragons.
The Indonesian Tourism Ministry has a plan to create ’10 more Balis’
of which Labuan Bajo is intended to be one – good news for Labuan Bajo, Flores, and the villagers of Komodo Island, enabling people to stay where they live rather than move to larger islands such as Bali for work. But this plan would also bring with it substantial threats to the lizards that draw the tourists in the first place, not to mention the wider environment.
More tourism means a need for more infrastructure. Currently only 10 percent of Komodo National Park
is open to the public, allowing the lizards plenty of freedom to roam away from people if they prefer (their normal home ranges are tiny however). If such a large-scale expansion were to come to fruition, it may result in lower prey species due to poaching, and eat into the lizards’ habitat, bringing them into greater contact, and conflict, with human residents. And let’s be honest, you don’t want to find a Komodo dragon in your hotel pool.