Hundreds of tourists are descending on Uluru in Australia each day to climb the sacred rock before it closes, leaving “sickening” amounts of rubbish in their wake.
The number of climbers has skyrocketed from around 140 each day before the upcoming ban was announced in 2017, to between 300-500 daily visitors.
Broadcaster ABC shared a photo it had received from a member of the public, showing a long line of people snaking up the rock. The local resident who sent the picture said it was “the busiest they’ve seen [Uluru]”, adding that there were cars parked for 1km on either side of the road leading up to the car park at the base.
“It makes me sick looking at this photo at the disrespect and disregard shown for the traditional owners’ wishes,” said a spokesperson from the Darug Custodian Aboriginal Corporation.
“Not only do people climb it but they defecate, urinate and discard nappies and rubbish on it.
“I for one cannot wait for the climb to be permanently closed and our sacred lore, culture and traditions to be acknowledged and respected.”
Stephen Schwer, chief executive of Tourism Central Australia, told the ABC: “When there is the kind of influx of drive travel as we are seeing at the moment, there is an influx of waste.”
“There’s just rubbish everywhere, including used toilet paper,” added Lindy Severin, the owner of cattle ranch and campsite Curtin Springs Station about 100km away. She said thousands of campervans heading to Uluru had been dumping toilet tanks on the roadside.
The massive sandstone monolith, sometimes known as Ayers Rock, is sacred to Aboriginal Australians, who have long campaigned to stop people climbing it.
There is already a sign at the bottom of the path, reading: “We, the traditional Anangu owners have this to say. The climb is not prohibited but we ask you to respect our law and culture by not climbing Uluru.
“We have a responsibility to teach and safeguard visitors to our land.
“The climb can be dangerous. Too many people have died while attempting to climb Uluru.”
The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board announced in 2017 that tourists would be banned from climbing the rock from 26 October 2019, after a 12-strong board voted unanimously to introduce the measure.
“It is an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland,” said chairman and senior traditional owner Sammy Wilson at the time.
“If I travel to another country and there is a sacred site, an area of restricted access, I don’t enter or climb it, I respect it. It is the same here for Anangu. We welcome tourists here. We are not stopping tourism, just this activity.”
Tourists will still be able to walk around the base and take a cultural workshop.