About Komodo Island

LOCATION :
Komodo National Park lies in the Wallacea Region of Indonesia, identified by WWF and Conservation International as a global conservation priority area. The Park is located between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores at the border of the Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) and Nusa Tenggara Barat (NTP) provinces. It includes three major islands, Komodo, Rinca and Padar, and numerous smaller islands together totaling 603 km2 of land. The total size of Komodo National Park is presently 1,817 km2. Proposed extensions of 25 km2 of land (Banta Island) and 479 km2 of marine waters would bring the total surface area up to 2,321 km2. (Click on the map to enlarge - 70kB)

HISTORY :
Komodo National Park was established in 1980 and was declared a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1986. The park was initially established to conserve the unique Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), first discovered by the scientific world in 1911 by J.K.H. Van Steyn. Since then conservation goals have expanded to protecting its entire biodiversity, both marine and terrestrial.
The majority of the people in and around the Park are fishermen originally from Bima (Sumbawa), Manggarai, South Flores, and South Sulawesi. Those from South Sulawesi are from the Suku Bajau or Bugis ethnic groups. The Suku Bajau were originally nomadic and moved from location to location in the region of Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara and Maluku, to make their livelihoods. Descendents of the original people of Komodo, the Ata Modo, still live in Komodo, but there are no pure blood people left and their culture and language is slowly being integrated with the recent migrants.
Little is known of the early history of the Komodo islanders. They were subjects of the Sultanate of Bima, although the island remoteness from Bima meant its affairs were probably little troubled by the Sultanate other than by occasional demand for tribute.

DEMOGRAPHICS :

There are presently almost 4,000 inhabitants living within the park spread out over four settlements (Komodo, Rinca, Kerora, and Papagaran). All villages existed prior to 1980 before the area was declared a national park. In 1928 there were only 30 people living in Komodo Village, and approximately 250 people on Rinca Island in 1930. The population increased rapidly, and by 1999, there were 281 families numbering 1,169 people on Komodo, meaning that the local population had increased exponentially. Komodo Village has had the highest population increase of the villages within the Park, mostly due to migration by people from Sape, Manggarai, Madura, and South Sulawesi. The number of buildings in Kampung Komodo has increased rapidly from 30 houses in 1958, to 194 houses in 1994, and 270 houses in 2000. Papagaran village is similar in size, with 258 families totaling 1,078 people. As of 1999, Rinca population was 835, and Kerora's population was 185 people. The total population currently living in the Park is 3,267 people, while 16,816 people live in the area immediately surrounding the Park.

EDUCATION :
The average level of education in the villages of Komodo National Park is grade four of elementary school. There is an elementary school located in each of the villages, but new students are not recruited each year. On average, each village has four classes and four teachers. Most of the children from the small islands in the Kecamatan Komodo (Komodo, Rinca, Kerora, Papagaran, Mesa) do not finish elementary school. Less than 10% of those which do graduate from elementary school will continue to high school since the major economic opportunity (fishing) does not require further education. Children must be sent to Labuan Bajo to attend high school, but this is rarely done in fishermen families.

SOCIO-CULTURAL AND ANTHROPOLOGIC CONDITIONS :
Traditional Customs: Traditional communities in Komodo, Flores and Sumbawa have been subjected to outside influences and the influence of traditional customs is dwindling. Television, radio, and increased mobility have all played a part in accelerating the rate of change. There has been a steady influx of migrants into the area. At the moment nearly all villages consist of more than one ethnic group.
Religion: The majority of fishermen living in the villages in the vicinity of the Park are Muslims. Hajis have a strong influence in the dynamics of community development. Fishermen hailing from South Sulawesi (Bajau, Bugis) and Bima are mostly Moslems. The community from Manggarai are mostly Christians.
Anthropology and Language: There are several cultural sites within the Park, particularly on Komodo Island. These sites are not well documented, however, and there are many questions concerning the history of human inhabitance on the island. Outside the Park, in Warloka village on Flores, there is a Chinese trading post remnant of some interest. Archeological finds from this site have been looted in the recent past. Most communities in and around the Park can speak Bahasa Indonesia. Bajo language is the language used for daily communication in most communities.

MARINE ECOSYSTEMS :
Indonesia is the only equatorial region in the world where there is an exchange of marine flora and fauna between the Indian and Pacific oceans. Passages in Nusa Tenggara (formerly the Lesser Sunda Islands) between the Sunda and Sahul shelves allow movement between the Pacific and Indian oceans. The three main ecosystems in Komodo National Park are seagrass beds, coral reefs, and mangrove forests. The Park is probably a regular cetacean migration route.

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