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Community Awareness

In Komodo National Park, community based initiatives are in place whereby selected members of the local community, mainly from Komodo village on the Island of Komodo who have shown specific wood carving skills, are encouraged by the Park authority to produce and sell handicrafts. These are handicraft characters resembling local wildlife, in particular Komodo dragons in different postures, including male combats. Other wildlife such as deer and buffaloes are also carved. Handicrafts are then sold to tourists at the harbour on Komodo Island. More recently a visitor to the Lesser Sunda Islands can find hand wood carved Komodo dragon characters in shops around towns and airports, too. Wood carving activity, based on sustainable or strictly monitored wood harvesting, is now one remunerative activity for people living within the boundaries of Komodo National Park.

On Flores, Komodo dragons are protected on four nature reserves located on the western and northern coast of the island. Conservation efforts are conducted by our NGO Komodo Survival Program in the Wae Wuul nature reserve, the three contiguous conservation areas of Wolo Tadho, Riung and Tujuh belas pulau and across the district of Pota.

Presence of Komodo dragons in the district of Pota was assessed during our newly developed survey programme along the coastline of Flores. This is a most important population found in so far unprotected dry deciduous Monsoon forest east of the Tujuh belas pulau reserve boundary. The northern coast of Flores constitute the easternmost known stronghold of Komodo dragons in Indonesia and harbour a genetically diverse lizard population in a region still void of mass tourism. Biodiversity is valued by local authorities, yet actual protection measures and infrastructures are in their infancy and much in need of external support. A number of important conservation initiatives are being carried out on northern Flores as described in this report. Direct and indirect threats to Komodo dragons have been gradually but significantly reduced thanks to an integrated environmental conservation approach with a strong community education component, particularly in primary schools. An additional, important component of such an integrated approach is the possibility of implementing sustainable development through alternative livelihoods as for Komodo National Park, where the making of wooden handicrafts is now a small-scale economic asset of the region.

A total of 11 people from two villages from the Pota district (Nanga Mbaur and Nampar Sepang) and two villages from the Riung nature reserve (Nanga Mese and Sambinasi) were invited to Komodo National Park to visit the craft makers.

A short-term workshop was held where people from northern Flores had repeated meetings with people from the village of Komodo to learn about logistics of daily coexistence with Komodo dragons from nearby forests and ecotourism practices. Meetings focused mainly on the potential of the presence of Komodo dragons for ecotourism development and included practical workshop sessions whereby Komodo village craftsmen demonstrated the different steps involved in the making of wooden Komodo dragon characters. This was an important step where people from different areas in the Lesser Sunda with similar potentials for sustainable development in areas harbouring Komodo dragons met to talk and plan future know-how transfer sessions. Participants had also an opportunity to observe Komodo dragons close to tourists and economic activities conducted by locals (e.g. selling souvenirs to tourists and guiding visitors). We believe that such grassroots initiatives are very important and will likely pave the way for additional alternative likelihoods plans aimed at protecting and conserving extant Komodo dragon populations in northern Flores.