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Hold Your Dragons!

Plans to Ship 10 Dragons from Komodo to Bali on Hold, for Now.

(8/17/2009) As reported on balidiscovery.com, plans by the Department of Forestry to move a sub-population of ten Komodos from West Flores to Bali has encountered strong resistance from Flores residents concerned that creating a large expatriate population of the world-famous largest monitor lizards would reduce the attractiveness of West Flores and Komodo as a tourist destination. [See: Komodo Dragons as Stay-at-Home Celebrities]

As reported by The Jakarta Globe, the Ministry of Forestry has reportedly put plans to move the dragons to Bali on hold, at least temporarily. The agreement to cancel the plan was revealed by West Nusa Tenggara's Governor Lebu Raya, who told the National News Agency Antara that the Minister of Forestry had told him of a decision to axe the plan.

Rebutting Governor Raya's reporting on his conversation with the Minister, the Ministry later denied that any decision to permanently cancel the transfer of dragon had been made, saying they were only postponing the move until a later time to allow discussions with local stakeholders.

The Forestry Ministry denied plans to place the dragons on public display at a Bali animal park, insisting they were merely trying to establish a Bali breeding population of dragons for eventual replenishment of dwindling Komodo populations in the wild.

Bali's governor, Made Mangku Pastika also chimed in on the subject, telling beritabali.com that he would reject any plans to ship the 10 Komodos to Bali. Pastika said plans to diversity the genetic base of the lizards in Bali was not realistic, insisting that the wildlife icons were best left in Komodo and West Flores.

The governor also confirmed to the press that he had yet to receive a formal request for the relocation of the Komodo for him to refuse.

Forestry officials responded to Pastika's threat to bar the shipment of Komodos to Bali by stating that the authority to approve or reject any decision to move Komodos to Bali did not rest with Bali's governor.

Quoted in Kompas.com, the Director General of Forestry Preservation and Conservation from the Department of Forestry, Darori, said, "they have no right to refuse (the transfer) because this is not within their authority." Daori said the right of his department to move populations of endangered animals to new habitats was granted under Law Number 5 of 1999 on conserving nature.

Darori insists the relocation of the reptiles is needed to widen the genetic diversity of the species, threatened with inbreeding in West Flores and eventual extinction.

A survey carried out by the Department of Forestry in 1991 counted 66 Komodos living outside the Komodo National Park in the Wae Wuul region. Another survey in 2008 counted only 17 Komodos in that region. Officials blame the decreased population on declining food sources, territorial conflicts with human populations, deforestation and illegal hunting.