Category: News@Komodo.

(Don’t) vote Komodo Island for New 7Wonders of Nature

Eka Ramadhona Nasution, Jakarta.

Anyone who wants to will be able to send an SMS vote to 9819 until Nov. 11 to make Komodo Island one of the New 7Wonders of Nature.

But before sending out our votes, do we truly trust the New 7Wonders of Nature Foundation, in collaboration with the Indonesian government, to preserve the ecology of Komodo as it is? Are we fully informed about Komodo’s ecological conditions or the lives of local residents in terms of their education and medical requirements?

Former tourism and culture minister Jero Wacik supported Komodo’s nomination for the list of New 7Wonders of Nature.

However, in mid-August 2011, he declined the nomination because the New 7Wonders of Nature Foundation asked for US$10 million from his ministry. Then, the title of Official Supporting Committee went to P2 Komodo. Former vice president Jusuf Kalla joined the campaign along with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who formally said he was leading the voting.

In a live television interview, a P2 Komodo spokeswoman gave some misleading facts, saying that Varanus komodoensis, the scientific name of the Komodo dragon, was not an endangered species.

On the contrary, the Komodo dragon is categorized as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, which was adopted in 1994.

The Red List category of vulnerable says that precautionary preservation must be emphasized as the species under this category face high risks of extinction in the wild.

Komodo National Park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. UNESCO declined to support to the New 7Wonders Foundation on July 9, 2007, saying “This initiative [The list of the 7 New Wonders of the World] cannot, in any significant and sustainable manner, contribute to the preservation of sites elected by this public.”

The foundation promises that new investments will come to the winners, and P2 Komodo chairwoman Emmy Hafild agrees.

South African accounting firm Grant Thornton even published a study in 2011 stating that the economic benefits of being successful in the New7 Wonders of Nature was equal to obtaining US$1,012 billion in the first five years alone for each winner.

But wait! Why do we believe new investments will come if even the address of the New 7Wonders Foundation in Zurich, Switzerland, is unclear? Indonesian Ambassador to Switzerland Djoko Susilo doubts the credibility of the foundation as an international organization.

Another concern is that any economic benefit as a result of development of the island or the surrounding islands cannot complement the potential environmental degradation there.

If these points of the islands are going to be occupied by humans, the spatial territory for the living Komodo dragons will be reduced.

Huge numbers will travel to Komodo, which will require boats, cars and planes. The risks will include oil-leakage from boats or even waste from the littering behavior of most Indonesians.

This will cause serious damage to the ocean life, notwithstanding the fact that the safety of sea travel in Indonesia is still flawed.

Tourists do go to Komodo. Nevertheless, the local community on Komodo Island and the surrounding islands benefits little. On nearby Rinca Island live several species of Komodo dragon, and there is one shoddy elementary school.

The school is a wreck in which six classrooms for grades one through six are divided by no more than five cupboards. Every day, students have to look out for Komodo dragons that may have come into their classrooms while hunting.

There is also a chronic absence of local medical facilities. If a resident is bitten by a Komodo dragon, that person must be taken by boat to Bali — the nearest place with sufficient health care facilities — to get medical help.

If Komodo dragons are threatened by human interference in the islands, they might commit suicide. Even though Jacques Lacan, a French psychoanalyst from the 20th century, considers the drive to death an enigma specific to humans, Duncan Wilson and Edmund Ramsden, researchers from University of Exeter, argue that many animals have enough intelligence to commit suicide due to the prevalent belief among animals that suicide is a natural and heroic act.

This intelligence was exemplified in a film called The Cove that won the Oscar for Best Documentary Film in 2010. In this film, Ric O’Barry, a dolphin trainer, witnessed one of the dolphins commit suicide by deliberately closing her blowhole to suffocate.

In addition, three fossils of animals resembling Komodo dragons were found in Queensland, Australia, in 2009.

This showed that Varanus komodoensis were extinct from the continent about 50,000 years ago because of the arrival of humans and other breeds in Australia.

The writer is a former junior lecturer in the International Relations and European Studies Postgraduate Degree at the University of Indonesia and holds master’s degree in International Relations from the Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3, Lyon, France.

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Category: News@Komodo