Randy British and American tourists in the Canary Islands are bonking so often in a protected dune reserve that endemic vegetation is being destroyed and the island’s beloved giant lizards are choking on condoms, according to a new study.
The study also linked the damage to the LGBTI community and its lead researcher stressed that while it had no intention of criticising part of the community or calling for a ban on having sex outdoors, he wanted people to be “aware of the harm it can cause”.
The Maspalomas Dunes Nature Reserve in Gran Canaria, which receives around 14 million visitors a year, in the Spanish Canary Islands is well known for its dune system and stunning golden sands.
Legally protected since 1982, Maspalomas is one of Europe’s last remaining dune systems and provides a resting place for birds migrating between Europe and Africa.
However, a new study titled ‘Sand, sea, sun and sex with strangers – the 5 S’, published in the Journal of Environmental Management, said the protected area is being destroyed by randy tourists.
The study said that ‘cruising activities’ are having an environmental impact on the coastal dune system.
Researchers identified 298 “sex spots” in an area of two square miles, mostly between “thick and dense vegetation” and nebkhas, dunes that form around vegetation.
According to researchers, the areas were studied at the start of May 2018 and included the local Gay Pride festival the following month, a popular event in Gran Canaria where many members of the LGBTI community come to visit.
The report said that ‘cruising for sex’ has led to the “trampling” of native plant species, three of which are endemic to the area, as well as “directly impacting” the nebkhas.
Tourists displace plants and sand and make their own “nests”, which sometimes include makeshift fences. They often also leave their rubbish behind, including cigarette butts, condoms, toilet paper, wet wipes and cans.
The protected dunes also serve as a ‘bathroom’ with urine and human excrement also present in the affected areas.
Researchers found that the more remote the sex spot, the more it had been used and had more rubbish.
Although the local authorities leave rubbish bags in some of the larger areas, they are usually always full.
According to the study, a ‘no-go’ area in the nature reserve, completely off-limits to the public, had 56 sex spots.
Furthermore, researcher Patrick Hesp said that a number of the island’s beloved Gran Canaria giant lizard (Gallotia stehlini) had “died after eating condoms left by pleasure seekers”.
With up to 14 million visitors a year, Gran Canaria is considered a gay-friendly tourist destination, with visitors from the US, UK and Germany among the top markets.
Although researchers emphasised that there was “no intention of criticising part of the LGBTI community”, and highlighted that all kinds of people are culpable of ‘pleasure seeking’ in the dunes, they pointed out that “cruising is practiced openly” in Maspalomas.
Hesp said: “We are not calling for an end to public sex, but we want people to be aware of the harm it can cause.”
A couple having sex on the beach, he said, is one thing, but having hundreds of people converging in the same area every day damages the dunes just as much as driving an SUV does.