Chinese tourists smash, destroy 'million-year-old' stalactite to take home as 'souvenirs'
Police are currently investigating three Chinese tourists who were filmed destroying an ancient limestone stalactite formation in north China. Authorities found surveillance footage of the incident at the Yishui Underground Gallery in Shandong province that shows the unruly tourists smashing the million-year-old limestone formation with a large rock before breaking a piece of it for each of them.
The video footage clearly showed the three men, who all appeared to be in their 50s, walk away with the broken pieces of rare dripstones as souvenirs, according to Chinese reports. Police were called by the staff members in the cave attraction on April 21 but the men are yet to be found, reports China Youth Daily as mentioned in the Daily Mail.
"The three men thought the dripstones were very beautiful and damaged them. The destroyed piece was about 10cm wide and 20cm long," Yang Feng, the manager of the Yishui Underground Gallery, admitted to video news site Pear. The entire piece of stalactite exhibit, which had been titled 'A Pair of Lovebirds', took about four million years by nature to form, Yang added.
Yang further said that the lone piece that the tourists broke off alone took about a million years to form. Video footage unearthed from the gallery site shows one of the men was walking along the cave's main path before spotting the dripstone. Next, the man bends to pick up a stone and starts smashing the limestone, but when it fails to break, he moves on to another piece, which chips off on the first strike.
The man hurries to show the spectacular rock to his fellow mates, who too copied his act of vandalism by breaking off two pieces of the formation each. As per Yang, the three walked further along the attraction and damaged another crystallized section of the cave.
Yang explained that the stalactites that were vandalized take a painfully long time to form, produced by the precipitation of minerals from water dripping through the cave ceiling, adding that sadly, restoration is not an option. As soon as news of the shameful act became news, social media users were quick to jump in and criticize the tourists' actions.
"Tourists spots should hang up their pictures at the entrance!" one user said. "They should be thrown in jail to let everyone know the consequences of such uncivilized behavior!" The picturesque Yishui Underground Gallery, with a total length of 6.6 kilometers was reportedly discovered by villagers in 1999.
Each formation has been given monikers according to animals they are said to resemble, such as 'dragon flying in the sky', turtle scouting the sea', and 'eagle over the mountains'. Moreover, Yishui is home to hundreds of natural karst caves and is known as the largest karst cave cluster in terms of scale in north China.