Fact Check

This Greenpeace Stunt May Have Irreparably Damaged Peru's Nazca Site

Did a Greenpeace publicity stunt damage the site of Peru's Nazca lines?

Published Dec 11, 2014

Claim:   Greenpeace irreparably damaged Peru's historic Nazca lines during a publicity stunt.


TRUE: Greenpeace activists entered a prohibited area at Peru's historic Nazca lines.

UNDETERMINED: Greenpeace activists caused permanent damage to the World Heritage Site.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, December 2014]

This Greenpeace Stunt May Have Irreparably Damaged Peru's Nazca Site. Is this for real?


Origins:   On 8 December 2014, members of the environmental activist organization Greenpeace entered a prohibited area at the site of Peru's historic Nazca lines as part of a publicity campaign related to climate change, leading to reports the protesters had "irreparably damaged" the landmark site. In response, Peru's Deputy Culture Minister Luis Jaime Castillo expressed outrage at the occurrence because the Nazca lines are extremely fragile and special footwear is required to enter the prohibited area. Although he did not specify what damage was done to the site, he did note the group's footprints would be visible for thousands of years:

It's a true slap in the face at everything Peruvians consider sacred. They are absolutely fragile. They are black rocks on a white background. You walk there and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years. And the line that they have destroyed is the most visible and most recognized of all. Peru has nothing against the message of Greenpeace. We are all concerned about climate change, But the means doesn't justify the ends.


The Nazca lines were created more than 1500 years ago and are fully visible only from the air. Greenpeace placed large yellow cloth letters reading "Time for Change; The Future is Renewable" beside a Nazca hummingbird figure in an attempt to reach delegates who were flying into nearby Lima for a climate change talk:

On 10 December 2014, the Peruvian government announced it was pursuing criminal charges against Greenpeace. The Associated Press also noted if the Greenpeace activists were found guilty of "attacking an archeological monument," they could face up to six years in prison.

Tina Loeffelbein, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, asserted the activists were "absolutely careful to protect the Nazca lines" during the stunt, and the group also issued an apology over the incident:

Without reservation Greenpeace apologises to the people of Peru for the offence caused by our recent activity laying a message of hope at the site of the historic Nazca Lines. We are deeply sorry for this.

We fully understand that this looks bad. Rather than relay an urgent message of hope and possibility to the leaders gathering at the Lima UN climate talks, we came across as careless and crass.

We have now met with the Peruvian Culture Ministry responsible for the site to offer an apology.

We welcome any independent review of the consequences of our activity. We will cooperate fully with any investigation. We take personal responsibility for actions, and are committed to nonviolence. Greenpeace is accountable for its activities and willing to face fair and reasonable consequences.

Dr Kumi Niadoo, the International Executive Director of Greenpeace, will travel to Lima this week, to personally apologise for the offence caused by the activity and represent the organisation in any on going discussions with the Peruvian authorities. Greenpeace will immediately stop any further use of the offending images.


Last updated:   11 December 2014

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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