Chile begins to restrict tourism to protect Easter Island

August 1, 2018

FILE - In this August 2012 file photo, statues of heads known as "Moais" stand at Rano Raraku, the quarry on Easter Island, Chile. The 400 or so sculptures have bodies attached, but they are buried under the dirt and not visible. Chile’s government is beginning to restrict tourism to the island, and have proposed to change Easter Island’s name to "Rapa Nui," as residents call the island. (AP Photo/Karen Schwartz, File)

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chile’s government on Wednesday began restricting tourism to Easter Island, which is known for its stunning gigantic stone heads known as Moais.

The statues have attracted an ever-increasing flow of tourists to the fragile island in the middle of the South Pacific, stressing its limited resources.

Chilean officials have started limiting the number of visits from tourists and non-locals from 90 days to 30 days.

Tourism Minister Monica Zalaquett said the measure is being taken now to protect the island.

President Sebastian Pinera has fast-tracked a bill that seeks to change Easter Island’s name to Rapa Nui — as residents call the island.

Chile annexed the island in 1888. It is about 2,200 miles (3,500) kilometers west of Chile.

Update hourly