A picture of a Komodo dragon facing a truck has raised concerns about the “Jurassic Park” attraction being built on the Indonesian island.
The multi-million dollar site is part of a government plan to overhaul tourism in Komodo National Park.
The viral image has raised doubts about its impact on the protection of the famous dragon, the world’s largest lizard.
Officials said the dragons were not hurt and their safety was paramount.
Komodo dragons are only found in the wild on a handful of Indonesian islands that are estimated to have roamed for millions of years.
They attract visitors from all over the world, and in recent years authorities have pondered how to manage the conservation and tourism of the national park.
Last year, the controversial decision to shut down Komodo Island, where most of the lizards live, and to deport 2,000 inhabitants who have lived with reptiles for generations, was cancelled.
Instead, authorities said they would introduce a $1,000 membership system to visit the island away from large-scale tourism to protect the dragons and their habitat.
But around the same time, they announced plans to develop large-scale tourism on neighboring Rinka Island, the second largest Komodo Dragon population.
The project was dubbed “Jurassic Park” in Indonesia after the architect posted a video of his proposal on Instagram last month-a setting contrary to the music of the dinosaur movie franchise. This video drew a lot of attention. Local activists share on social media.
Scheduled for completion in June 2021, the development is expected to include a tourist information center and pier.
Why did the photo cause controversy?
Over the weekend, images of Komodo dragons facing construction trucks on Rinca Island were widespread on Twitter and Instagram.
Shared by the activist group Save Komodo Now. “This is the first time that the Komodos has heard the roar and smell of smoke from the engine. What will be the future impact of this project? Is anyone still interested? Conservation?”
Greg Afioma, a member of the coalition, told the BBC that the planned development would affect reptiles and residents.
“This kind of large-scale development disrupts the animal’s interactions. It will change their habitat,” he said.
Government officials told BBC Indonesia that they had reviewed the photos they shared on social media and that they could confirm that the Komodo Dragon was not hurt during construction.
“The Komodo Dragon is not going to be a victim,” said Wiratno, Director General of Nature Conservation and Ecosystem of Indonesia Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
He added that his ministry team will be moving to the island to make sure they are following safety protocols to protect the dragon.
According to government data, Indonesia’s Komodo population currently stands at about 3,000. Dragons can grow up to 3 m (10 ft) and can be bitten by sharp teeth and poison.
Most of them (about 1,700 people) live on the island of Komodo, and more than 1,000 people live in Rinka. The entire national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Additional reporting: Muhammad Irham, BBC Indonesia