Komodo National Park, located between Sumbawa and Flores, was founded in 1980 with the aim of protecting the endangered Komodo dragon. As the park is not only the last sanctuary for the Komodo dragon but also a unique area of marine biodiversity, it became a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1986 and entered the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1991. With its outstanding submarine richness, it is not surprising that the park is one of the world’s finest destinations for scuba divers. With an area of 1,817 km², the park consists of Komodo Island, Rinca Island, Padar Island, and numerous smaller islands. The famous giant lizards, who are unique to Komodo National Park, are not only of great interest to tourists but also to scientists studying the theory of evolution.
Komodo National Park is home to about 3,500 people who live in four villages. The largest settlement is Komodo Village on Komodo Island; the other settlements are Rinca Village and Kerora Village on Rinca Island; and Paparagan Village on Paparagan Island. Most of the people in Komodo National Park make their living out of fishing. Some people earn extra income by carving wooden Komodo dragons to sell to visitors on Komodo Island, or at the airport and in hotels of Labuan Bajo.
When Komodo became a national park in 1980, these villages have already been in existence for about 70 years. The people’s origins can be drawn back to the Sultanate of Bima on Sumbawa Island. Life is not easy for them: as the population has grown massively over the years, they face serious shortages of water and firewood. Besides, pollution and over-fishing, using destructive methods such as dynamite fishing, has endangered marine life – the main source of livelihood and income of the Komodo inhabitants.