An ecological park in southwest China has been forced to close for the rest of the year because hundreds of tourists have stripped it of its celebrated lotus flowers.
Longqiao Cultural and Ecological Park in Sichuan province’s Lu county has been closed since late March for watercourse construction and was due to reopen soon.
The park is well known for its sprawling fields of lotus flowers that cover around 250,000 square metres (62 acres) – an area larger than New York’s Grand Central Terminal.
But since the start of the summer blossom season last month, hundreds of people have been breaking into the park to pick the flowers, forcing managers to keep it closed for the rest of the year.
“We cannot control the tourists. We can just guarantee we’ve done our job well. We’ve put notes on the park gate and near the flower field and we have security personnel on patrol as well,” a member of staff surnamed Zhou said.
Zhou added that the construction work in the park was almost finished but that there was no point in reopening because there were virtually no flowers left.
Around 200 to 300 people a day are still believed to be breaking into the park, and have forced management to increase the number of security patrols.
Videos and photos of people picking lotus flowers have been circulated widely online and drawn criticism.
“Even the highest fence cannot stop those without manners. It’s like you can never wake up a person that pretends to sleep,” one Weibo user commented.
“Only penalties can stop these greedy people,” said another.