The higher entrance fee to the park was never finalised, and a few months later, Indonesian authorities seized six baby Komodo dragons that were being illegally sold on Facebook. This led to the arrest of seven suspects who had sold at least 40 Komodo dragons for US$35,000 each on social media platforms to buyers across Southeast Asia.
An Environment Ministry Official claimed that it was the first time he had heard of the trafficking of Komodo dragons. The reason for trafficking the animals was claimed to be for traditional medicine by one source, and for the exotic pet trade by another.
A few days after the seizure of the baby dragons, the government announced the closure of Komodo Island from 2020 for one year. Other islands in the park such as Rinca would remain open to visitors. This decision was confusing considering the Komodo dragons were stolen from Flores and not Komodo Island, and were not poached by foreign tourists which comprise the majority of visitors.
However, the government had reportedly been planning this closure for a while, citing a number of reasons: tourists were disrupting the Komodo dragons’ mating habits; making them docile with food handouts; and local people were poaching deer, the Komodo dragons’ main prey, and using destructive fishing methods around the park.
The economic value of Komodo National Park was calculated to be around US$427 million in 2017. Considering this, the decision to put conservation ahead of tourism and close one of the main islands was admirable. Thailand acted similarly by closing Maya Bay, which hosted around 5,000 tourists each day, to allow the environment to recover. Coral was propagated in the bay, and a few months later, it was estimated to house the highest density of sharks in the entire Thai sea.