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Indonesia Plans to Close Giant Lizard Island to The Public to Conserve Rare Reptiles

Syahputra works as a wildlife guide at Komodo National Park on the eastern Indonesian island of Komodo, taking visitors around the park

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Indonesia, Giant Lizard, Island
FILE - A Komodo dragon walks at the Komodo National Park in Komodo island, Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province. VOA

Almost every day 20-year-old Rizaldian Syahputra puts on his blue uniform, laces up his high boots and leaves his wooden house on stilts for a job many nature-lovers would envy. Giant Lizard

But by next year, he may no longer be employed.

Syahputra works as a wildlife guide at Komodo National Park on the eastern Indonesian island of Komodo, taking visitors around the park on foot to get up close to the leathery Komodo dragons, the world’s largest living lizard species.

The Indonesian government plans to close the island to the public from January next year in a bid to conserve the rare reptiles.

Indonesia, Giant Lizard, Island
Almost every day 20-year-old Rizaldian Syahputra puts on his blue uniform, laces up his high boots and leaves his wooden house on stilts. Pixabay

The scheme also involves moving about 2,000 villagers off the island. Authorities are holding talks with community leaders on how to relocate the residents, Josef Nae Soi, deputy governor of the province of East Nusa Tenggara, told Reuters recently.

It is hoped that closing the island to tourists will cut the risk of poaching and allow a recovery in the numbers of the animals’ preferred prey, such as deer, buffalo and wild boar.

The island could reopen after a year, but the plan is to make it a premium tourist destination, Soi said.

Syahputra, who says he enjoys his job because of his passion for nature and conservation, shares the fears of many others on the island who rely on tourism for a living.

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“The closure is definitely something that makes us unhappy,” he said.

“If we really have to do it, I hope we can find a middle ground on the solution, not closing the whole island but just a certain area.”

More than 176,000 tourists visited Komodo National Park, a conservation area between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores, in 2018. The whole area was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

About 1,700 Komodo dragons are estimated to live on Komodo island. Other islands in the national park that are home to more than 1,400 of the giant lizards, such as nearby Rinca and Padar, will remain open to tourists.

 

Indonesia, Giant Lizard, Island
The scheme also involves moving about 2,000 villagers off the island. LifetimeStock

Villagers who have lived on Komodo island for generations are unsurprisingly opposed to the idea of having to leave.

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“We have been living as one for years with this village,” said resident Dahlia, who gave only one name. “The graves of my father and ancestors are here. If we move, who will take care of those graves?” (VOA)

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FGM is Embraced as a Traditional Practice in Indonesia: Research

Study: Indonesians Embrace Female Genital Mutilation as Religious, Traditional Practice

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INDONESIA FGM
Indonesian girls with their mother leaving a school-hall-turned-clinic after the daughters were circumcised in Bandung. The Indonesian government has come under fire after the UN General Assembly in November passed its first resolution condemning female genital mutilation (FGM) which more than 140 million women worldwide have been subjected to. Kania was later circumcised. VOA

By Nurhadi Sucahyo

With a knife, a razor blade, scissors or a needle, half of Indonesia’s girls are circumcised, and a new study found that it is a tradition more rooted in family folkways than religion.

“Cultural reproduction occurs in the household,” said Sri Purwatiningsih, a researcher of Center for Population and Policy Studies at Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta. “Circumcised grandmothers tend to circumcise their daughter. A mother who was circumcised by the grandmothers will most likely circumcise their daughter.”

Purwatiningsih presented her findings Thursday, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, at the university, where the center refers to the procedure as female genital mutilation or cutting.

Indonesia ranks third in the world, at 49%, for the rate of prevalence of female circumcision, after Mali, at 83%, and Mauritania, at 51%. According to an Indonesian Basic Health Research study from 2013, 51% of the nation’s girls up to the age of 11 have been circumcised. Among them, 72.4% were circumcised at between 1 and 5 months, 13.9% when they were between 1 and 4 years old, and 3.3% were 5 to 11 years old.

INDONESIA FGM
A man shows the logo of a T-shirt that reads “Stop the Cut” referring to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) during a social event advocating against harmful practices such as FGM at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya. VOA

UN definition

Female genital mutilation refers to “any procedure involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genitals for nonmedical reasons,” according to the United Nations Population Fund. The most widespread practices worldwide involve partial or total removal of the clitoris, prepuce, or both, and the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora. The UNPF found the practice is linked to child marriage and said it “predates rise of Christianity and Islam,” and was practiced as recently as the 1950s in Western Europe and the United States because a clitoridectomy was performed “to treat perceived ailments, including mental and sexual disorders.”

More than an estimated 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation, and “the impacts on their health and well-being can be immediate — from infections, bleeding or psychological trauma — to chronic health conditions that can occur throughout life,” according to a U.N. release. It continued to say, “the cost of treating the total health impacts” of female genital mutilation is $1.4 billion globally per year.

“FGM is not only a catastrophic abuse of human rights that significantly harms the physical and mental health of millions of girls and women; it is also a drain on a country’s vital economic resources,” said Dr. Ian Askew, director of the World Health Organization’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research on a U.N. website.

Indonesian study

A survey focused on Indonesian girls and women, conducted by the Center for Population and Policy Studies in 2017, found 87.3% of 4,250 households in 10 provinces obtained female circumcision information from their parents. Of those surveyed, 92.7% said they believed the practice was primarily religious and 84.1% said the practice is also traditional. An overwhelming majority of respondents, 97.8%, approved of female circumcision, saying the tradition should be practiced.

The survey also found that traditional Indonesian birth attendants were responsible for 45% of female circumcisions, midwives or nurses conducted 38%, female circumcision specialists performed 10%, and doctors performed 1%.

Hamim Ilyas, a professor at the Faculty of Sharia and Law at Islamic National University Sunan Kalijaga in Yogyakarta told VOA Indonesia that only those who interpret Islam in the most literal way can find justification for female circumcision in its teachings.

He considers the best approach to the issue to be “state based,” meaning families should obey Indonesia’s laws. He used traffic lights as an example, religion never taught a person to stop at a red light, but the signal represents a law that drivers know to obey.

“The minister of health’s regulation has forbidden FGM. … However, the government seems to be hesitant under pressure,” from fundamentalist sectors of Indonesian society, he said. “If the government is determined, if the government is brave, the practice can be eradicated. But the government seems not ready yet [to enforce the law] because the people are not ready yet. We have to change our society, to be a society that anti-FGM. It is through the transformation of religious understanding — not [by] changing the teaching, but changing the understanding of it.”

INDONESIA FGM
Indonesian doctor preparing to circumcise a female child in Bandung. VOA

Indonesian law

Ika Ayu, an activist at the Jaringan Perempuan Yogyakarta, or Yogyakarta Female Network, criticized the government’s indecisiveness on FGM, as even Majelis Ulama Indonesia, the country’s top Muslim clerical body, rejected the practice in 2008.

Despite the Ministry of Health regulations, she said, “The government has not ever been clear in regulating FGM, while we know FGM has been listed as harmful practice as part of [the U.N.’s] Sustainable Development Goals.”

She urged the government to be more decisive and added, “Today, we commemorate zero tolerance for female genital mutilation, but in practice, it is still being done. We should ask, ‘How can a country guarantee the fulfillment of every citizen’s rights?’ Female circumcision violates individual rights because it was done without the girls’ consent.”

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Dr. Mukhotib, a reproductive health activist who, like many Indonesians uses only one name, told VOA that the many reasons to reject female circumcision include the fact that it has no medical benefit, countering traditional beliefs.

“There is no benefit to FGM. It does not make women healthier,” he said. “If there is no medical benefit, why bother?” (VOA)