Conservation Management of Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park (KNP) was set up as a Technical Implementation Unit of PHKA. Its purposes are to protect the Komodo dragon and its habitat, the terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems and their species, the exploited reef fish and invertebrates and surrounding fishing grounds; it exists also to promote sustainable use of the natural resources for tourism, fisheries, education, and research. Key regulations for the management of KNP are the Act on Conservation of Biological Resources and their Ecosystems, the Fisheries Law, the Government Regulation concerning Natural Resources Tourism in the Use Zone of National Parks, Community Forest Parks and Natural Resources Parks, Government Regulation on Conservation Areas, and the Government of District Manggarai Regulation on Fishing Gear, plus the Ministry of Forestry Decree on Zoning.

A 25-year management plan was inaugurated in 2000, to be implemented in five-year segments. The Park is split into seven zones: Core, wilderness, tourism, traditional use, pelagic use, research and training, traditional settlement. The intensive use zones contain the development of the villages within enclaves and the tourist and administrative facilities; the wilderness zone provides for limited tourism such as trails and camps; and the core zone is strictly protected with access restricted to authorised PHKA and research personnel (FAO, 1977). The sanctuaries are on the southern half of Komodo and Rinca Islands and on Gili Montong Island. The Park headquarters are located at Labuan Bajo and there are six permanently staffed guard posts within the Park, though major decisions are taken in the Ministry of Forestry in Jakarta.

Management activities have focused on enforcement and the provision of tourist facilities. Recommendations for the development of a buffer zone to provide resources for the village enclaves, the expansion of regional and local development and conservation awareness programs were made by Sumardja in 1981. Robinson & Bari recommended in 1982 that viewing the monitor from baiting stations be reduced and a more balanced programme of nature trails be developed. Robinson et al. (1982) recommended strategies to control deer poaching, including closing markets on Sumbawa and Flores by cooperating with the local government, as well as strengthening PHKA enforcement capability. It also recommended that the intensive use zone be extended seawards by 1,000m to allow passage and anchorage of boats. Within the extensive marine buffer zone Park authorities may regulate the type of fishing permitted and to some extent, the presence of outside fishermen, the most persistent poachers (J.Thorsell, pers.comm.,1991).

During designation of the Biosphere Reserve, local communities were involved in the decision-making. In 1996, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) established a local field office to implement a coastal and marine conservation program in partnership with the PHKA. This included enforcement, alternative livelihood development, community awareness, constituency building, monitoring and research, and the development of funding through eco-tourism. In 2000 the Government and PHKA endorsed a 25-Year Management Plan for the Park by The Nature Conservancy. This again proposed extension of the boundaries and buffer zone of the Park. Implementation of a legal ban on destructive fishing and of a weekly marine patrol program has resulted in an 80 percent decrease in blast fishing: reef monitoring has indicated that even heavily targeted reefs are now continuing to recover from this damage (Mous, 2002).

Other successes include a rapid ecological assessment, a socio-economic assessment, and conservation planning. The Park boundaries could be extended to include for instance the diverse corals of Gili Banta island; the existing Park inhabitants could also be resettled, and the fisheries better policed to ensure their sustainability. Management is improving but there has been a lack of coordination between partnering NGOs and universities and the stakeholders such as hoteliers, security, tourist and diving companies, local people and the district administrations. There is a need for legal reform, for effective collaborative management to keep collected revenues within the Park, to improve the training and education of staff and to provide facilities for both terrestrial and marine research. A major step towards achieving these aims was taken in 2004 with the help of The Nature Conservancy by the Ministry’s agreement to a joint venture tourism concession (the Nature Tourism Enterprise Licence) to benefit the Park’s infrastructure, revenues and local communities. The Komodo Collaborative Management Initiative combines government agencies, local governments and communities, the joint venture company and private organisations with the aim of promoting effective long-term management (Tun et al.,2004).

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