The Moai of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) are world famous. Most of the 887 known giant statues were carved from mostly between circa 1250 CE and 1500 CE and have been the subject of much curiosity and speculation in the outside world.
Recently a visitor from Finland, one Marko Kulju (26), was seen chipping off a piece of the face and earlobe from one of the Moai! A native Rapanui woman witnessed the desecration and police identified Kulju from the woman's description of one of his tattoos. Kulju faces a $19,000 fine and possible prison time.
As outrageous as this act was, it is not the only vandalism which has occurred on Rapa Nui in recent times. The Easter Island Foundation and Pacific Institute
lists several incidents such as scraping paint off of cave paintings, carving a happy face on a Moai, spray painting graffiti on an ahu (platform), and many others. The perpetrators have come from Chile, Japan, Italy, England, Canada, and elsewhere, so being a "jerk" is not confined to any particular country or culture, and cheap air travel makes it possible for any jerk to go to the ends of the earth and leave their mark.
Rapa Nui needs the income it gets from tourism, but I hope that a way is found, and soon, to protect that island's heritage, as well as other significant archaeological and religious sites around the globe.
UPDATE - The following appeared on the Radio Netherlands News website:
"Easter Island - A tourist from Finland has been fined 10,000 euros for damaging one of the famous moai stone statues on Easter Island in the Pacific. He also had to write a public apology and may not set foot on the island for the next three years.
"The Finnish tourist referred to the incident as 'the biggest mistake in his life'. He was arrested last month for taking a piece of an earlobe off one of the statues. He has now paid his fine and is going home."
[The incident was reportedly and accident, not a deliberate act of vandalism. Some of the moai are fragile - so should be climbed upon or even touched. Duh! Expensive lesson for this guy.]