The consequences of allowing unrestricted tourist access at an Aboriginal site in a fragile environment: the erosive effect of trampling
Maney & Co
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences / Centre for Ecosystem Management
Mulka's Cave is a profusely decorated Aboriginal rock art site located near Wave Rock, a heavily-promoted granite weathering feature outside Hyden, a small town in the south-west of Western Australia. Thousands of tourists visit Wave Rock and Mulka's Cave each year. This level of visitation is severely impacting the ground surface both within and without the cave. Comparison of pictures of the cave mouth taken over the last fifty years shows that about one metre of the deposits within the cave has disappeared during that period. We attribute this erosion to trampling. We describe the measures recently taken to reduce the impact of tourists' feet on Mulka's Cave. It is hoped that the new infrastructure will prevent further environmental degradation. We briefly address the vexed question of whether tourists should be allowed unrestricted access to archaeological sites in fragile environments, given the damage they can inflict on them unintentionally and unwittingly.