Tourism can be an ethical dilemma. On one hand, it gives someone the opportunity to broaden their horizons, and see what the world looks like outside of their typical experience. On the other hand, tourism has a direct financial influence on the visited area.
Countries may be incentivized to bring in more tourist dollars with spectacular attractions that damage the environment or ecosystem around them.
The debate over this issue is playing out all over the world, and one dramatic example has shown up in Indonesia, where the government is continuing to build a tourist attraction near their famed Komodo National Park.
The controversial development has sparked environmental concerns after a photo of a Komodo dragon confronting a construction truck went viral in Indonesia earlier this year, which was shared online by Twitter user @KawanBaikKomodo.
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Critics dubbed the plan “Jurassic Park,” after the failed island attraction from the movies. “What’s going on now is a destruction of the dragons’ living spaces,” explained Umbu Wulang Tanaamahu Paranggi, director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment in a Reuters interview.
In spite of the government’s repeated assurance that construction crews will avoid future incidents with Komodo dragons, critics argue that the development itself, on Indonesia’s Rinca Island, endangers the already threatened Komodo dragon.
The disruption to their habitat and increased human contact could spell disaster for the species, which is treasured in Indonesia for its distinct appearance, powerful bite, and dominance in the area’s ecosystems.
UNESCO, which lists the Komodo National Park as a World Heritage Site, notes that “increasing levels of tourism and matters related specifically to the komodo lizard are the major management issues” that face the park currently.
As Indonesia grapples with the desire to draw tourists (and their funds, which contribute in part to conservation efforts) while respecting its wildlife, it has drawn criticism from UNESCO and activists both locally and globally. The government of Indonesia currently has not altered its development plans, though the issue is ongoing.Whizzco