A komodo dragon viciously attacked an Indonesian construction worker helping build a $6.5 million “Jurassic Park”-inspired resort on an island where the world’s largest lizards have roamed for thousands of years.
Laborer Elias Agas was rushed to a hospital by speedboat from Rinca Island in Komodo National Park after one of the fast, powerful lizards snuck up on the 46-year-old and bit him on the left leg and right wrist late last week.
Around 4,000 Komodo dragons live on a cluster of islands in the eastern part of Indonesia. Though the national park that encompasses the islands has received few visitors during the pandemic, tourists are normally discouraged from getting close to the giant reptiles, whose toxic bite can be fatal if not treated quickly.
The head of park security told local media that the attack occurred in the afternoon on Dec. 9 and that the worker was “seriously injured.” A co-worker of the victim was also quoted saying the lizard had gotten only a few feet away from them before it struck.
The incident comes amid a flurry of bad headlines for the planned mega-resort, which was likened to “Jurassic Park” in a promotional video that used the theme song video from the movies. In October, a photo of a komodo dragon confronting a construction truck on the project went viral and sparked the hashtag #SaveKomodo.
The recent attack happened a month after the head of the park guaranteed the safety of workers involved in the development.
Aloysius Suhartim Karya, who leads the preservation group Tourism Rescue Society Forum, told VICE World News that the project can harm both workers and the komodo dragons, which are classified as vulnerable. The lizards become more aggressive when they are disturbed, according to Karya, whose work focuses on the park.
“They can’t act normally when they get stressed out,” Karya told VICE World News.
He added that komodo dragon hunting spots could be put at risk by the new development and that the chances of attack will rise if they can’t find food.
The government has dismissed the concerns, saying that komodo dragons would not be harmed during the project’s construction and that special care would be taken to work around them.
The attack was not the first at the park. In November 2017, a construction worker was set upon while repairing a toilet. He tried to shoo the komodo dragon away with his hand when he was bitten on the leg. Then his hand was bitten.
According to reports, an estimated four people have been killed by komodo dragons out of 16 attacks since 1987 in Indonesia. The figures could not be independently verified.
Activists in East Nusa Tenggara province, where the UNESCO-listed national park is located, have been organizing a series of protests against the controversial development since 2018.
In September this year, a collective of civil society organisations wrote an open letter to UNESCO asking officials to visit the park and encourage the Indonesian government to reconsider its plans.