) irishtimes.com - Visitors swarm over Uluru before tourist ban in October - Thu Jul 11 17:55:09 IST 2019

Visitors swarm over Uluru before tourist ban in October

Josh Taylor

Last Updated: Thursday, July 11, 2019, 17:55

Tourists are travelling to Uluru to climb the rock, against the wishes of the traditional owners, to get in before the practice is banned in October.

Parks Australia said there were “certainly visitors travelling with the intention of climbing Uluru before the climb closure comes into effect”.

The management board of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park voted unanimously in November 2017 to ban tourists climbing Uluru.

Dozens of photos of crowds of tourists scaling the world heritage-listed site have been posted on Instagram and Twitter .

The ABC reported that tourists were trespassing, illegally camping and dumping rubbish in the lead-up to the closure.

Anangu, the traditional owners, have long requested that visitors not climb Uluru because it is a sacred men’s site, and because they feel cultural responsibility over the high number of deaths and injuries incurred from climbing.

There have been 37 confirmed deaths since the 1950s. The last was a 76-year-old Japanese tourist in July last year.

The board announced in 2010 that it would close the climb once the proportion of visitors to Uluru who chose to climb the rock fell below 20 per cent. The ABC reported it was then at 38 per cent, down from 74 per cent in the 1990s, but as of 2015, it was down to 16.2 per cent.

A spokesman for Parks Australia said 87 per cent of visitors now chose not to climb Uluru, although there had been an increase in the number of visitors. In the last financial year there were 395,338 visitors to the park, up 20 per cent on the previous financial year.

But he said the impending closure of the site was not the only reason for the increase in numbers. The introduction of direct flights from Darwin and Adelaide to Ayers Rock airport since April had increased the number of visitors, and numbers went up during the school holidays.

“Just as we want people to look after the world heritage values of Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park, we also encourage people to respect the broader region and not to camp illegally or dump rubbish,” he said.

The date the climb will close, October 26th, will be 34 years to the day since Uluru was given back to the traditional owners. -Guardian