Climbing to be banned on sacred Australian rock formation Uluru

The sun rises over Uluru, Australia
The sun rises over Uluru, Australia

Climbing the dramatic rock formation Uluru will be banned in two years after declining as visitors to the Australian landmark increasingly recognise its sacredness to indigenous people.

A park board made up of a majority of the traditional owners of the land where the rock stands made the decision.

One of the landowners, Sammy Wilson, said, "It is an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland."

The red monolith is in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, near Alice Springs, 1,300 miles north west of Sydney.

Figures from Parks Australia indicated only 16% of visitors climbed the rock between 2011 and 2015, down from 74% in the 1990s.

Around 300,000 people visit each year, with Australians and then Japanese most likely to climb.

Mr Wilson, the park board's chairman, said visitors will still be welcomed. "We are not stopping tourism, just this activity," he said.

The traditional landowners, the Anangu, have always refused to climb Uluru and consider it sacred.

The site is often closed to climbers after the death of important indigenous figures as a mark of respect.

The park board in 2010 indicated it would close the formation to climbing if the activity was declining and if other park experiences were attracting visitors.

The last day of climbing will be October 26 2019, chosen because it is the anniversary of the date in 1985 when the land and the formation once called Ayers Rock were handed back to the traditional owners.