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May 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 45, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Dragon Smugglers Forcing a Shutdown of Komodo Island

from the May, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The allure of Indonesia's Komodo Island for divers is the massive manta rays gliding around underwater, and the massive Komodo dragon lizards walking around topside. It is threats to the latter that may shut down the island entirely to tourists starting in January 2020.

Smugglers are stealing the dragons due to demand in other parts of Asia for dubious medicinal purposes (their blood is packed with antimicrobial peptides, a built-in defense against infections by all living creatures). The decision to close the island came just days after nine men were arrested on suspicion of selling more than 40 Komodo dragons for about $35,000 each. The temporary shutdown is expected to give officials an opportunity to increase the dragon population and preserve their habitats. Some reports indicate there are just 6,000 of the dragons left in existence, and fewer than 500 of those are females capable of breeding.

But there's still a glimmer of hope for divers wanting to see Komodo's manta rays: We still don't know how or if this would affect liveaboards operating close to the island's shores.

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