Komodo National Park – History
The Komodo National Park is an iconic part of Indonesia. People from all around the world visit to see the amazing scenery and wildlife of this beautiful corner of the world. It’s one of the true success stories of a National Park and ranks in recognition with other iconic spots such as the Galapagos. The story behind the region is interesting and full of insight into the struggle of making it the success it is today.
The Discovery of the Dragon
The park came to be as a way to protect the endemic Komodo Dragon. Made up of the 3 main islands of Komodo, Rinca, and Padar, the park was created in 1980. However, its history as a protected area goes back further. Long known to the native inhabitants, dragons first became of interest to western science in the early 1900s. Peter Ouwens, the director of the Zoological Museum in Bogor, was the first to publish a paper about the dragons in 1912.
By 1915 the Dutch government put a ban on hunting and limited collecting dragons as they realized there was only a small population. This marked the first form of protection in the Komodo region. The first true long term study of them in the wild by Walter Auffenberg began in 1969 and gave us much of the information about the dragons behavior we have today.
Protection of the Dragons Begins
By 1938, the islands of Rinca and Padar were declared as Nature Reserves followed by Komodo island in 1965. By 1980 the area was declared the “Komodo National Park” by the Indonesian government. The park included 75,000 hectares under protection. This was extended in 1984 to 219,000 hectares of ocean and land. In 1991, UNESCO decreed the National Park as a World Heritage site.
In 1995, the park entered an agreement with The Nature Conservancy to oversee and implement strategies to develop the park. The agreement with the Nature Conservancy ended in 2010. Since 2010, the Park has been run by a joint venture of the Ministry of Forests and PT Putri Naga Komodo. They are in charge of the day to day running of the Komodo National Park, patrols, infrastructure and ranger activity.
A Turbulent Beginning
Although the main reason for the creation of a protected area in Komodo was originally to protect the dragons, the purpose soon multiplied. In the 1970s and 80s the area became known as a truly diverse and special marine environment. What was originally a terrestrial protected area soon encompassed the marine life as well. As with anywhere in the world with rich natural fauna stocks, the Komodo National Park was at threat by hunters and destructive fishing. Illegal hunters and fishermen from Flores and Sumbawa were a constant threat for poaching deer and other wildlife.
Once the area became a National Park in 1980, the authorities were able to take action against poachers as well as have funding for patrols. The 1980s and 1990s were a turbulent time in the area with the interception of many poachers as well as local demonstrations against the new regulations. With frequent patrols and a plan of action, the illegal activity gradually decreased and by the 2000s it is rare to spot illegal activity.
What Is Being Protected?
The Komodo National Park is important in so many ways. As the only home of the endemic dragons, its integral to protect this species. However, there are also many important species of bird, snakes, monkeys, pig, and even buffalo in the area. One of the most important denizens of the islands is the Timor Deer. This small species is the main source of food for dragons. However, it’s also the most sought after prey of poachers. Protecting the deer population is an important spoke in the wheel of conserving the dragons.
Marine Life Protection
Not to be outdone by the terrestrial life, the marine life is also very important. With one of the most diverse populations of both coral and fish in the world, the Komodo area is a scuba divers paradise. Even from the early days, a large percentage of visitors enjoyed snorkeling or diving activity. This led to the inclusion of reefs to the protected areas and patrols against illegal fishing. Now snorkelers and divers make up a large proportion of visitors to the park.
Every year brings more and more improvements to the Komodo National Park. The main ranger stations at Rinca and Komodo are undergoing an evolution of upgrades. A visit to these outposts is always a must to learn about the park and the dragons. The local naturalist guides receive ongoing training and education and are a wealth of knowledge of the parks natural inhabitants. Many of them are expert spotters of wildlife from dragons to insects, birds to wild flowers. Walking the trails with a guide is not only mandatory for safety, it’s also of benefit when it comes to spotting the wildlife.
What About the Komodo National Park Today?
Today the Komodo National Park is undergoing its next evolution. With increasing popularity around the world, tourism numbers are increasing. Also, the number of inhabitants in local villages are also increasing. The population of around 300 in the 1930s is more than 4000 today. Human impact is having an effect on the natural environment. Thankfully, park authorities notice this and are taking active measures to safeguard the park and surroundings. Limiting the number of people entering daily, closing certain fragile areas, and increasing patrols are just a few of new implementations. These measures are much needed and help protect this special corner of the world.
Visit the Komodo National Park on Samata
There is an endless variety of activities in Komodo. The Samata spends a large amount of time in the area and knows all of the best and private anchorages. Our crew has been working in the area for many years and know the best conditions for all the activities. If you are interested in visiting this amazing and diverse area of Indonesia please let us know!