The Easter Island Statues Are In Danger Because Tourists Keep Doing This To Them

Photo: Laurent Davoust / Alamy Stock Photo.
The tiny, remote island of Rapa Nui — better known as Easter Island – has seen an big increase in tourism in the past few years. The island, in the Polynesian Triangle, home to the famous and mysterious Easter Island statues, now sees more visitors than the pyramids of Egypt, Newsweek reports.
And while tourism can be a boon to the economy, in the case of Easter Island, it’s destroying the island’s precious stone statues, known as moai, which were erected between 1100 and 1400 A.D.
Why is this happening? Because tourists are climbing on the moai so they can get a photo of themselves picking the noses of the stone heads. This is gross for so many reasons.
According to Jo Anne Van Tilburg, an archaeologist at the University of California, Los Angeles who has has been conducting research on the island for nearly 40 years, travelers frequently ignore the rules and walk on protected areas and across graves.
These actions not only can damage the priceless statues, but the tourists’ behavior is extremely disrespectful, Van Tilburg told Newsweek. In the Rapa Nui community, the sculptures are sacred, memorializing their ancestors and relationship with the gods.
“I am troubled by the lack of genuine tourist interest in the island and its people,” she said. “There is a lack appreciation for the Rapa Nui past. It seems that many wish only to insert themselves into history by taking a selfie with the timeless statues.”
This is not the first instance this year of disrespectful tourists trampling on local cultures and sights in order to get the perfect Instagram snap. We’re currently in peak flower tourism season, and in towns outside of Amsterdam, local tulip farmers are already feeling the impact of their flower fields’ Instagrammabilty. Tourists are apparently stomping on (and around) the tulips to get that perfect shot, according to a report by Reuters, effectively destroying the beautiful floral they came to see.
Fields of tulips aren’t the only blooms that have been destroyed by tourists this year. Earlier this spring, when hundreds of bright orange and yellow poppies bloomed in Southern California in late March, tourists left a field of “crushed flowers and overflowing toilets” after seeking that perfect flower-filled shot.
Many seasoned travelers follow the principles of “Leave No Trace,” which were created to protect parks and forests, but can be applied to man made wonders as well. These principles include planning ahead, being considerate of other visitors, leave no waste and leave what you find as it is. Seemingly good advice to follow when visiting other cultures (and, honestly, in all aspects of life).

More from Travel

R29 Original Series