A plan by the Indonesia Ministry of Forestry to move 10 Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) to a breeding facility on Bali has met with protests from two groups of local citizens, neither of which want the lizards moved, but for different reasons.
About 2,500 Komodo dragons remain in the wild, according to the ministry, and their numbers are dropping. The species is listed as "vulnerable to extinction" by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The 10 dragons would come from a nature conservancy on Flores Island, which is home to just 17 of the lizards. Their largest population is on the island of Komodo, from which they get their name. According to a report from The Jakarta Globe, the ministry said the move is necessary to preserve the species—not just in general, but also later on Flores, where the dragons are currently "entering human settlements and preying on goats because of their denuded habitat and the scarcity of local food stocks."
"They are cannibals. If they don't have any food to eat, they will eat each other," Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban told the Globe.
The Komodo dragons would be moved to Gianjar Safari Park on Bali, which has experience breeding endangered species, such as the Jalak Bali bird and long-neck turtle, according to The Jakarta Post. The privately run park would bear the cost of the breeding program, according to Antara News. Bali has no native Komodo dragons.
Bali residents aren't happy about having Komodos move into their neighborhood. They fear unknown environmental and societal consequences (the old NIMBY—"not in my backyard"—argument).
Meanwhile, the residents of Flores aren't happy about losing more than half of their dragons. They say the loss could affect their district's future tourism revenues (despite the whole "entering human settlements" thing).
The provincial administration of East Nusa Tenggara, which represents Flores and about 550 other Indonesian islands, has also objected to the plan and sent a formal letter of protest to Minister Kaban. They want any breeding program to take place on Flores, in the Komodo dragons' native habitat.
So far, the ministry has ignored the protests and says the move will proceed as planned.
Image: Komodo dragon feeding on a water buffalo corpse, via Wikipedia