EAST NUSA TENGGARA, Indonesia: Hundreds of Indonesian tourism workers went on strike this week to protest a sharp rise in ticket prices to see the country's famous Komodo dragons.
The Indonesian government claimed the rise in fees, which went up 18 times overnight to $252 to visit two main islands of Komodo national park, aims to assist in funding the habitat of one of the world's largest lizards.
However, local workers said the higher prices would scare off tourists.
There are some 3,300 rare Komodo dragons in Indonesia. The lizards can grow up to 10 feet long.
"This has caused uncertainty among us. We decided to go on strike, even when we are suffering from a loss here. This might as well be suicide," said Tour guide Leo Embo, a member of one of 24 local workers' associations currently on strike, as quoted by Reuters.
Footage from KompasTV released this week showed a standoff between police and striking workers, and local media reported dozens of arrests.
Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno urged workers to hold talks with the government.
Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, the pristine islands in Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracted some 222,000 visitors annually.
But in the following years, this numbers shrank to about 50,000, affecting tourism-dependent businesses.
Indonesia's previous efforts to generate revenue from the Komodo dragons have attracted controversy, such as an image in 2020 of a dragon facing off with a construction vehicle, which caused outrage when it went viral on social media.