- People aren’t always kind to nature, especially when traveling.
- Headlines are often filled with people badly damaging nature and the environment. This year was no different.
- In 2018, people chucked ancient dinosaur tracks into a reservoir in Utah, poached almost 90 elephants in Africa, and knocked over an ancient rock formation.
When it comes to nature, this rings especially true. This year people have made headlines by vandalizing, destroying, or tampering with some of the world’s most gorgeous natural environments.
From defacing a national monument to shattering a rock formation millions of years in the making, here’s how people have damaged nature in 2018.
A group of tourists pushed a rock formation that dates back millions of years off a cliff in England.
- Flickr/Barney Moss
The Brimham Rocks is a National Trust site in North Yorkshire, England, and the rocks there have been shaped by wind, rain, and ice for millions of years. But that didn’t stop a group of teenagers from pushing one of the 320 million-year-old formations over a cliff this June, destroying the monument.
“They went at it for quite a while to get the momentum to push it off. So there was definitely intent there,” Catherine Barber, a ranger at the Brimham Rocks, told CBC. “It’s a great shame because that stone’s been there and has been rocked by many visitors over hundreds of years, and it’s just a shame now that it will [no longer] be there for the people to come in and try.”
Another group of tourists damaged a 40 million-year-old land formation in China.
- lwtt93/ Flickr
In August, four Chinese tourists entered an ancient landform in a geopark in China called Zhangye Danxia. They posted a video when they broke into a roped off area and damaged most of the surroundings.
In the video, you can see the tourists walking on red and yellow sand while also digging their feet into it. The bottom layers of the landform were created 40 to 100 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, according to the South China Morning Post, and the top layers are a result of erosion, estimated to have been formed 200,000 to 400,000 years ago.
But in the video, one of them casually brags, “I destroyed a 6,000-year-old [formation.” Only two were arrested for the crime.
In Utah, dinosaur tracks that date back millions of years were destroyed.
- Jim McKenzie/ Flickr
About 200 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed through northeastern Utah and the only thing they left behind are footprints, which people can visit at the Red Fleet State Park. But this year, the park staff has reported that a number of people have dislodged the tracks and thrown them into the reservoir nearby. The Washington Post reports that at least 10 footprints have vanished from the site this year. No one has been charged with the crimes, but under Utah law, it is considered a felony.
One high schooler asked someone to prom by destroying a national monument in Colorado.
A high schooler’s romantic attempt at a promposal might lead to a $5,000 fine and some jail time. Colorado National Monument park staff found graffiti on some of the rocks that read “You’re perfect to me,” “I promise to love your forever + always,” and “Prom…ise?” The staff of the desert canyons has not found the hopeless romantic but have since washed the graffiti off the National Park Service monument.
An arsonist was arrested for a massive wildfire in California, which burned over 10,000 acres of forest.
The Holy Fire in Cleveland National Park blazed through Southern California in August and damaged some 10,000 acres of forest. Over 20,000 people were evacuated, and it put 7,000 homes and buildings in danger.
Police were eventually able to arrest a man named Forrest Fordon Clark, charging him with multiple felony counts involving arson after finding him responsible for starting the fire. According to the New York Times, Clark had reportedly fought with his surrounding neighbors and started the fire in retaliation. He has been charged with arson of inhabited property, arson of forest, and criminal threats. He faces life in prison.
One man in China took a stranded dolphin home from the beach.
On Hailing Island in China, a man was caught on video stealing a dolphin from the beach that had washed up on shore. In the video, the man can be seen throwing the dolphin over his shoulder and walking to his car and then driving off with it. Witnesses say the dolphin was dying when it was stranded on the beach, but China’s Public Security Department said the man will be arrested anyway because dolphins are a protected animal. An investigation is still underway.
Tourists also destroyed rare pink grass in China this year.
Pink muhly grass only blooms for about two months during the fall, but one patch of the pink grass in China lasted just two weeks after tourists destroyed it. In the city of Hangzhou, park caretakers had to cut down the grass to protect it because tourists kept stomping over and lying in it to take photos. They even ignored the tape that was placed around the patch to keep people out.
Meanwhile, overcrowding at Thailand’s famous Maya Bay beach has led to the destruction of the ecosystem.
In 2000, Leonardo DiCaprio starred in “The Beach,” which is set in Maya Bay, Thailand. After the success of the movie, tourists started flocking to the paradise beach and, as a result, completely destroyed the beach’s ecosystem. More specifically, the coral reef has deteriorated because of the boats, sunscreen, and litter. Thai authorities announced in June that Maya Bay is now closed indefinitely until the coral reef is restored.
Poachers killed almost 90 elephants in a protected sanctuary in southern Africa this year.
- Cameron Spencer/ Getty
Elephants Without Borders, a protected sanctuary in Botswana, discovered the carcasses of 87 elephants in September.
“All carcasses [were] presumed to be poached, because all of them had their skulls chopped to remove their tusks,” a staffer at Elephants without Borders told NPR. “Poachers tried to hide their crimes by concealing the mounds of rotting flesh with drying bushes.”
Poaching is a serious problem in Botswana, which has the largest elephant population in the world, according to NPR. The country developed an anti-poaching force to stop the killing of elephants, but the unit failed to protect the 87 poached this year.
Overweight people were banned from riding donkeys in Greece this year after hurting the animals’ backs.
- CucombreLibre/ Flickr
Overweight tourists have been hurting donkeys in Santorini, Greece, for years. But this year the country decided to do something about it. In October, the country banned people who weigh more than 220 pounds from riding a donkey.
Before this rule, tourists in Santorini would typically pay to ride donkeys from the shore to town, which are often dangerously sloped. The long journey and heavy loads reportedly caused spinal injuries in the donkeys. There have been additional reports that the donkeys are submitted to inhumane conditions. Petitions have been signed to ban this mode of transport through the city entirely, CNN reports.