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Indonesia's Komodo dragons spark a devil of a row

Plans to control tourist numbers set locals against the provincial government

Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizards, growing to a length of 3 meters and topping 100 kg. Only rediscovered in the early 20th century, they have roamed the earth for millions of years but survive only on a few remote Indonesian islands. (Ron Gluckman)

KOMODO ISLAND, Indonesia -- This remote island has become a global bucket-list attraction because of its namesake Komodo dragons, protected in the 1,733-sq.-km Komodo National Park. A prehistoric relic, the dragons are the world's largest lizards, with sharp teeth and a toxic bite. While the dragons were once threatened by poachers, it is now the tourism industry that has sprung up around them that is under threat.

Until recently only naturalists visited the island, which lies about 1,500 km east of Jakarta in the far-flung archipelago of Nusa Tenggara Timur (East Nusa Tenggara), Indonesia's southernmost province. But an estimated 200,000 tourists swarmed to the UNESCO World Heritage park in 2018, all eager to check out the rare lizards, which can reach 3 meters in length and weigh more than 100 kg.

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