Holidays to Canary Island hotspots Gran Canaria and Tenerife now come with a warning for tourists. Holidaymakers who graffiti some of the protected sand dunes on Gran Canaria, Spain could face jail time. From writing love hearts in the sand on the dunes to carving faces into rocks – environmentalists and police have had enough. The sand dunes on Gran Canaria – known as the Maspalomas Dune system – are protected by the Canarian government as a Nature Reserve of special value.
Covering around 1,000 acres, the dunes are considered one of the most important ecosystems of Gran Canaria.
However, the dunes are now severely at risk due to the careless behaviour of some people.
Police had discovered stone circles, graffiti on stones, faces carved into rocks, huge hearts drawn into the sand, carvings in the ground and giant crosses made from volcanic stones.
Doing any of the above is punishable by a fine, but if culprits are caught they could face prison.
Another problem is volcanic rocks being painted with red in order to signpost walks.
This is believed to be done by foreign tour guides “because of their ignorance” and is particularly problematic as the paint is difficult to remove from the porous rock.
Environmentalists have complained that some graffiti works – such as writing in the sand – are so enormous they are visible from space and show up on Google Maps.
They claim tourists are guilty and are creating the “art” in order to take selfies with them.
The campaigning group Telesforo Bravo-Juan Coello Foundation have received photos and messages alerting experts to damage being caused – and are calling for tougher action, reported The Sun.
The group are calling the behaviour ”abuse to the environment” and want to increase sanctions and have more patrols.
Supporters of the foundation say visitors should be given leaflets on the problem at the airport, or even be told of the issue on their flight before they land.
The island of Tenerife shares these concerns, and damage in its protected parks, including around the Teide volcano, is being reported to the police.
Perpetrators could be fined up to €600 (£525) and will have to pay the cost of the restoration work.
The news comes as smaller Canary Island, Isla de Lobos, tries to limit numbers and protect from overpopulation.
Anyone wishing to visit needs to seek written permission three days in advance.
The island’s council is enforcing a limit of no more than 400 people a day, divided into two lots of 200 maximum.
A spokesman said: ”The aim is to guarantee the preservation of this unique space and natural park.”
Additional reporting by Rita Sobot.