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Two of the young Chinese tourists who broke into a Danxia national geopark in Zhangye, Gansu province and filmed themselves damaging the ancient landform. Photo: Weibo

Chinese tourists damage ancient landform where dinosaurs roamed, post video to brag

Two turn themselves in after posting video showing them trampling coloured sands of the protected land formation

Phoebe Zhang

Two of four tourists who damaged a 200,000-year-old land formation in a geopark in Zhangye, in central China’s Gansu province, and bragged about it on video-sharing platform Douyin turned themselves in to the police on Tuesday night.

The two were a 20-year-old man surnamed Li, who published the video, and a 17-year-old man surnamed Xu.

The identities of the other two are being investigated by the police, according to a statement by the Zhangye government.

The video, now deleted, was originally published on Tuesday morning.

From a cached copy on Shanghai-based news portal, two men and a woman, not including the video maker, can be seen walking on red and yellow stripes of sand, a signature of the Danxia land formation.

The video was uploaded with the text: “Good things must be shared twice: we went through the back door and didn’t have to pay for a ticket. This area looks even better”, the report said.

As he films, one of the tourist brags, “I destroyed a 6,000-year-old [formation].” In another clip, a tourist is seen digging the sand with a bare foot.


The bottom layers of the Danxia landform in Zhangye date from the Cretaceous period, about 40 million to 100 million years ago, according to Liang Xiaofeng, an assistant researcher at the Institute of Geology and Geophysics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“That’s the era from the show Dinosaur Corps Koseidon, when all the dinosaurs were active,” he told South China Morning Post on Wednesday.

The sand layer damaged by the tourists was a result of erosion and was estimated to have been formed 200,000 to 400,000 years ago, he said.

The damaged layer might take a long time to recover because the lack of rainfall in the area means the erosion process is slow.

The city government launched an investigation to find the tourists as soon as the video came to light, and geopark and police and experts were called in to survey the damage.


According to the government’s statement, railings around the affected area, which had not yet been opened to the public, were also damaged.

The city government has set up measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.


Workers have been organised to fix and check the remaining railings in the geopark and security staff will patrol the outskirts of the region.

Messages calling on tourists to obey the rules and protect the landform are being played repeatedly on electronic boards and through loudspeakers.