There’s nothing cuddly about the 5,000 or so Komodo dragons that still roam the wild. They’re aggressive, venomous predators that can exceed 3 meters in length and weigh more than 68 kg. They’ve been known to occasionally attack humans, sometimes fatally. Nonetheless, growing numbers of tourists are flocking to Komodo island to see them. And starting next year, they’ll pay up to $1,000 for the privilege.

This new “membership fee,” announced at the end of September, is intended to reduce over-tourism, and perhaps save Komodo’s signature species in the process. If it works, it could act as a model for some of the world’s most ecologically sensitive sites, and the local communities that too often fail to see the benefits of the global ecotourism boom.

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