Tourists arrested for allegedly defecating at sacred Machu Picchu temple

Helen Coffey
Machu Picchu in Peru: iStock

Six tourists have been arrested after allegedly defecating in a sacred temple at Machu Picchu.

The visitors face a minimum of four years in jail if found guilty of damaging Peru’s cultural heritage.

“The six tourists are being detained and investigated by the public ministry for the alleged crime against cultural heritage,” Cusco regional police chief Wilbert Leyva told local news agency Andina after the incident on Sunday 12 January.

The culprits were found in a restricted area of the Temple of Sun, part of the 15th-century Incan citadel set high in the Andes.

Authorities said they found a “fracture” in a piece of stone that had come off and left a crack in the floor, as well as faeces at the sacred site.

The group of trespassers comprised one French, two Brazilian, two Argentinian and one Chilean tourist, according to police.

Several parts of the Temple of the Sun are off limits to the public to help preserve them.

Peruvians treat damage to cultural heritage as a serious crime.

In 2017, a Greenpeace activist from Austria was sentenced to three years and four months in prison on probation, plus ordered to pay 650,000 Sol (£150,000) in “civil reparation” costs, after he trespassed on an Unesco World Heritage site.

Wolfgang Sadik and a group of other activists had laid out a banner reading “Time for Change! The future is Renewable” next to the famous humming bird geoglyph of the Nazca Lines during the UN climate summit in Lima in 2014.

Machu Picchu is Peru’s best-known tourist attraction.

The citadel had to introduce ticketing in 2017, after surging tourist numbers prompted Unesco to threaten to put the attraction on its list of world heritage sites in danger.

Visitor numbers had swelled to an average of a 5,000 a day in summer, double the 2,500 advised by Unesco.

From 2019, the site added strict timed-entry slots to better manage crowd control.

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