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Published on : Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Under the combined management scheme, Parks Australia work closely with the traditional owners to manage cultural sensitivities and the board of the World-Heritage listed park is working towards closing the climb permanently.
About 250,000 people visit Uluru each year, while there are no official records on how many climb, visitor surveys from a small number of people suggest somewhere around 20 percent take on the challenge of the climb. For many tourists, the experience of seeing Uluru for the first time in the middle of the Australian desert heartland brings a feeling that is difficult to hold back.
For tourists safety, cultural and environmental reasons the park is working towards closing the climb. It is currently left up to visitors to decide whether they tackle the sandstone monolith, which rises 348 metres.
The traditional Aboriginal owners of Uluru, whose connections to the sacred site date back tens of thousands of years, don’t want climbers, especially given that more than 35 people have died attempting the physically demanding feat.
The traditional Anangu owners say, “Uluru is sacred in our culture. It is a place of great knowledge, under our traditional law climbing is not permitted. As custodians, we are responsible for your safety and behaviour. Too many people have died or been hurt causing great sadness.”
Uluru is Situated in the remote Outback in central Australia, and it began to be promoted as a place for tourists in the 1940s. The site took off and at one-point decades back, the chain railing was installed. In the years since, attitudes have radically changed and in 1985 the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which includes the group of huge domed rocks once known as the Olgas, was officially handed back to the traditional owners.
However, the park’s majority Anangu board wants to be satisfied on three measures before they shut it down — that the proportion of visitors climbing has fallen below 20 percent, that sufficient new visitor experiences are in place, and that the natural and cultural experiences offered are the critical factors for people visiting the park.
Meanwhile, concerns have arisen about the possible damage to the rock from climbers tramping up the slopes, which host tough, spiky spinifex grass, native fig trees, and natural waterholes. Some leave rubbish and graffiti while others urinate on the rock, producing a waste that can wash into waterholes after rain and in turn be harmful to the plants and animals of the park.
Wellbeing is also a main concern at Uluru, where summer temperatures can hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) moreover the climb and some parts of the base walk are closed in excessive heat.
A board member with the Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council, Robert Taylor, says, a timely counterbalance to the need to climb has been the growing global respect for Aboriginal culture, and he believes most visitors now want “a true Aboriginal experience”.
“Visiting Australia and not visiting Ayers Rock, is just like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower.”