The Indonesian activist who uploaded a viral photo of a komodo dragon confronting a truck helping build a resort dubbed "Jurassic Park" said he hopes the image shines a spotlight on the controversial project.
"I never thought it would go viral," Gregorius Afioma told VICE News on Monday, as his Instagram post from the weekend racked up almost 300,000 views, sparking a #SaveKomodo hashtag on social media and ending up in global news stories. "My posts have never attracted so much attention before."
Afioma works for environmental NGO Sunspirit for Justice and Peace, which focuses on conservation issues in the region where the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Komodo National Park and its surrounding islands host a few thousand of the world's biggest lizards. He thinks the photo could help build momentum to better preserve the komodo habitat.
"It feels like the people here have finally gotten new powers to fight back," he said.
The $6.5 million proposal is tied to a government-sponsored tourism and economic redevelopment campaign. It was named "Jurassic Park" only after architects shared a video of their design set against composer John Williams's theme song from the dinosaur movie franchise.
No official timeline has been confirmed but construction work will be carried out on Komodo, Padar and Rinca island, where the photo was taken.
Around 4,000 Komodo dragons live on a cluster of islands in the area. In normal times, visitors would arrive by boat having been strongly discouraged from getting too close to the strong, giant reptiles - whose toxic bite can prove fatal.
Stricter changes to the island were being discussed in 2019, with local authorities planning to restrict the number of visitors through park tickets and higher entry fees. And as COVID-19 spread rapidly in Indonesia visits to Komodo were curtailed.
On Oct. 26, the park abruptly announced that Rinca island will close until June 30 next year. But officials said it was not due outrage from the viral photo, local media reported.
The project has faced harsh criticism but the government insisted they will proceed as planned and that no komodo dragons were harmed.
"The truck broke down in front of the komodo dragon. It wasn't interrupting the animal at all," Hari Santosa Sungkari, Deputy of Infrastructure at Indonesia Agency for the Creative Economy, told IDN Times in response.