Climate change or human activities? Scientists debate threats to Indonesia’s Komodo dragons


JAKARTA, October 3 (Jakarta Post / ANN): The recent decision by the Swiss-based organization, the International Union for Conservation (IUCN), to list the Komodo dragons, the world’s largest living lizards, as one of the world’s endangered species should be examined in more detail, Indonesian scientists said.

The IUCN, in the latest edition of the “Red List of Threatened Species” published in early September, placed the Komodo dragons in danger of extinction, which the organization reserves for endangered species in the wild.

IUCN has estimated that the change in status – the first in 25 years since the organization deemed the species to be “vulnerable”, a notch below its current status, in 1996 – could be attributed to the sea ​​level rise caused by climate change, which is expected to reduce viable Komodo dragon habitat by 30% over the next 45 years.

A deterioration in the quality of dragon habitat, including human encroachment, has also been cited to justify the new status of the species.

Indonesian scientists, however, take a different point of view, arguing that climate change is not the biggest threat that could push the giant lizard population closer to extinction and have pointed out that activities related to the human, such as land clearing and tourism, nearby dragons habitat could be more threatening to the Komodo dragon population.

Aditya Dimas Pramudya, an ecologist from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), argued that while sea level rise could pose a “substantial threat” to animals with limited habitat areas in small islands, including the Komodo dragons, there were other factors that were potentially more threatening to the dragon population.

“In my opinion, sea level rise cannot be classified as a substantial threat [for Komodo dragons] for the moment, especially when we compare [such factors] with the threat of a decrease in the Komodo prey population through illegal hunting, ”Aditya said on September 28.

He said a lot of research had been done to highlight the change in the dragon’s general behavior, especially its declining sensitivity to human presence. This, Aditya said, could lead to an increase in the frequency of conflict between Komodo dragons and humans in the future.

“In the long run, such conflicts could potentially create lose-lose situations for both. [Komodos and humans]”said Aditya.

Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) researcher Evy Ayu Arida joined Aditya in saying that human encroachment into the habitat of Komodo dragons, especially in areas outside of a national park, could constitute a serious threat to the giant lizard population.

“The increase in the human population, with all their associated activities, including the clearing of land for agriculture, and the continued decline of the dragons’ natural prey could be the most serious threat. [for Komodo dragons]», Declared Évy.

The dragon population is concentrated on the islands of Komodo and Rinca, which, along with Padar, Nusa Kode, and Gili Motong, form Komodo National Park east of Nusa Tenggara.

Populations of dragons have also been observed on the western and northern coasts of the neighboring island of Flores. IUCN estimated the adult giant lizard population to be around 1,383 and predicted that this figure would decline by more than 30 percent over 40 years from the 2010 baseline.

University of Indonesia Biological Conservation Professor Jatna Supriatna also said the increase in human activities, particularly tourism-induced, around the giant lizard’s habitat was potentially a more imminent threat to the species.

“I am quite worried about the tourist activities of Komodo National Park, because the tourists are too close to the dragons. It would be much safer if they could observe the Komodo dragons from a safe distance, given that [the dragons] have poisonous bites, ”Jatna said.

The government is currently revamping some of the facilities on Rinca Island as part of its efforts to develop Komodo National Park and the nearby town of Labuan Bajo, located outside the boundaries of the national park, into a ‘premium’ tourist destination. .

Local activists have raised concerns over the potentially harmful impacts of government projects, which garnered widespread attention last year after a viral photo showed two construction workers staring from their truck in front of a dragon of Komodo on the island of Rinca. – Jakarta Post / ANN

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