Hundreds of Indonesian tourism workers have gone on strike over a hefty increase in ticket prices to see the country’s Komodo dragons, a rise the government says is needed to preserve the habitat of the world’s largest lizard.
The fee to access two of the main islands of Komodo national park shot up 18 times overnight to 3.75m rupiah (£205) on Monday, a jump that local workers said would scare off tourists and cause their incomes to dry up.
Indonesia is home to about 3,300 rare Komodo dragons, which can grow up to 3 metres (10ft) in length and can kill large prey with a single venomous bite.
“This has caused uncertainty among us,” said Leo Embo, a tour guide who belonged to one of 24 local workers’ associations striking on Tuesday.
“We decided to go on strike even when we’re suffering from a loss here … this might as well be suicide.”
Kompas TV showed footage of a standoff between police and protesters. Local media reported dozens had been arrested, and the tourism minister, Sandiaga Uno, on Monday urged workers to hold talks with the government.
The islands in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province are a Unesco world heritage site and drew close to 222,000 visitors in 2019, before the pandemic struck.
Annual numbers have fallen to about a quarter of that in the following years, decimating tourism-dependent businesses.
Indonesia has courted controversy before over its efforts to generate revenue from the giant lizards, including an image of a dragon facing off with a construction vehicle, which triggered outrage when it went viral on social media in 2020.