Komodo National Park
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Park-World Heritage Site Lying 200 nautical miles east of Bali,
Komodo National Park nestles between the large islands of Sumbawa
and Flores, all of which are part of Indonesia's Lesser Sunda
Islands (Nusa Tenggara on current maps).
This unique biosphere was born in the great volcanic uplift that
formed Sumatra, Java, Bali and the islands lying eastward to Papua
In 1928 the Dutch colonial government of the then Dutch East
Indies formalized the nature reserve status originally conferred
on Komodo in 1915 by the Raja of Biwa in neighbouring Sumbawa.
Indonesia decreed the area a national park in 1980, and in 1992
Komodo was declared a World Heritage Site.
komodo national park Despite these official designations and its
obvious interest to the scientific community, Komodo is daily
suffering irreparable damage by the hand of man.
Almost before the world can properly appreciate the natural beauty
of Komodo - home of the Komodo Dragon - its wonders are in danger
of disappearing forever. It is disturbing that so little has
changed since the declaration of Douglas Burden, leader of the
1926 American expedition to Komodo: "a place where every prospect
pleases, and only man is vile".
Komodo National Park is located between the islands of Sumbawa and
Flores in the Lesser Sunda Islands, at a distance of 200 nautical
miles to the east of Bali.
It has a total land area of 75,000 hectares and encompasses a
number of islands, the largest of which are Komodo (34,000
hectares), Rinca (20,000 hectares), Padar, Nusa Kode, Motang,
numerous smaller islands, and the Wae Wuul sanctuary on Flores. A
total of 112,500 hectares of the surrounding waters are also under
the jurisdiction of the park rangers.
In 1938 Padar and the south and west of Rinca were declared a
Wildlife Sanctuary, but it was only in 1965 that the island of
Komodo was formally included in the sanctuary. Komodo National
Park was established by government decree in 1980 followed by the
designation of Komodo National Park as a World Heritage Site in
Komodo National Park has the lowest annual rainfall in all of
Indonesia, with an abbreviated rainy season in the month of
January. For most of the year Komodo is dry and hot, parched by
arid winds from the Australian desert that blow from April through
Maximum temperatures reach 43 C, with minimums of 17 C in August.
Most of the Park is dry, rugged and hilly, a combination of
ancient volcanic eruptions and more recent tectonic uplift of
sedimentary seabed's. The irregular coastline is indented with
rocky headlands and sandy bays, many framed by soaring volcanic
Komodo island is 35km long and 15km wide, and is mountainous on a
north to south axis, with an average altitude of 500-600m. The
highest peak is Battalion (735m) in the north. Most of the island
is lontar palm savannah with remnants of rainforest and bamboo
forest at higher elevations.
On Rinca the land rises gradually from the north coast to a
plateau that ends at Mount Dora (667m) in the south. The rugged
south coast is very sheer as a result of volcanic activity in the
distant past, as evidenced by the crater bay in which Nusa Kode
The Park encompasses most of the recognized habitat of the largest
known lizard, the world famous Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis).
The Park is also home to Sunda deer (Cervus timorensis), wild
buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), wild boar ((Sus scrofa), the macaque
monkey (Macaca fascicularis), and wild horse (Equus qaballus).
komodoAll the large mammals have been introduced by man, but
indigenous frogs, snakes and lizards abound on the island. The
sole endemic species found on Komodo is the aptly named Komodo
Over 150 species of birds have been identified in Komodo National
Park, many of which are migratory and more representative of
Australasian than Asiatic species. Distinctive species include
sulphur-crested cockatoos, imperial pigeons, white-breasted sea
eagles and maleos.
The seas surrounding the park teem with over 1000 species of fish
and marine mammals Komodo is unique in the world in having two
distinct marine habitats - tropical and temperate - a few nautical
miles distant from each other. There is a constant flow of the
warm tropical waters of the Flores Sea to the north which mix with
the cold upwelling brought from the south by the Indian Ocean.
The upwelling are caused by deep ocean currents originating in
Antarctica which collide with the volcanic shelf of Komodo and
surface. The upwellings, combined with the oxygenation occasioned
by the fierce currents surrounding Komodo, provide an endless
supply of plankton and nutrients to the surrounding seas. This in
turn, supports an amazing and colorful profusion of temperate
marine life - invertebrate, mammal and fish.
red beachA few mile to the north lies an even greater multitude of
tropical fish life that are normally found in equatorial waters.
All in all, there are over 1000 species of fish and marine mammals
found in the waters surrounding Komodo. Komodo is unique in the
world in having two distinct marine habitats - tropical and
temperate - a few nautical miles distant from each other.
There is a constant flow of the warm tropical waters of the Flores
Sea to the north which mix with the cold upwelling brought from
the south by the Indian Ocean. The upwelling are caused by deep
ocean currents originating in Antarctica which collide with the
volcanic shelf of Komodo and surface. The upwelling, combined
with the oxygenation occasioned by the fierce currents surrounding
Komodo, provide an endless supply of plankton and nutrients to the
This in turn, supports an amazing and colorful profusion of
temperate marine life - invertebrate, mammal and fish. A few mile
to the north lies an even greater multitude of tropical fish life
that are normally found in equatorial waters. All in all, there
are over 1000 species of fish and marine mammals found in the
waters surrounding Komodo.
Saving the Seas of Komodo Even WITHOUT a Dragon, Komodo and its
surrounding islets would for me still remain a powerful symbol of
that vanishing Garden of Eden deep within our collective memory .
With its strange orchids, flying lizards, forests of giant fan
palms and scarcity of man, it seems less like another Place than
So remote is this tiny island that it wasn't until
l911 that Varanus Komodoensis, its 10-foot long, running swimming,
tree-climbing lizard, was described by science and revealed to the
world as fact rather than myth.
Located at the edge-seam of the world, in no one continent and no
one sea, the dragon islands of Komodo National Park are also
surrounded by a furious moat For the Lesser Sunda archipelago,
that thin chain of islands stretching east from Bali towards New
Guinea, is also the grid which divides the warm shallows of the
South China seas, from the cool deeps of the Indian ocean.
The ebb and flow between these opposing bodies of water produces
not only the protective navigational hazard of tidal races and
whirlpools, but also an astounding mixture of marine creatures of
both warm and cold water, some species having no business to be
anywhere near here at all, others found no where else, and many
more constantly revealing themselves to be new to science.
No less than fifteen different varieties of whales and dolphins
have recently been observed here, from pods of shark-eating
tropical Orcas, to the two-foot long, exuberantly acrobatic
Whereas the Dragon was only discovered in the first decade of this
century, it wasn't until the l960's that it was properly surveyed
and studied. In the 1970's it began receiving is first trickle of
tourists, and only the l980's did its waters first begin being
plumbed by SCUBA divers - and now, at the turn of the Millennium,
just when we have started to see how mysteriously rich this region
is, we find it under threat.
The burgeoning population of Indonesia, the hunger for fish and
meat, has brought dynamite and cyanide fisher bandits to Komodo's
reefs, and marauding armed poachers seeking the wild deer and pig
of the islands, which are the essential life support of the great
lizard. Our last dragon, and its moat of marine mysteries, should
be passed on, don't you think, to continue to remind future
generations of our earliest beginnings and of that dwindling
Garden of Eden within us all?