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Gran Canaria giant lizards 'dying' after eating used condoms in popular cruising spots

Sex on the dunes - and the trash and cigarette butts left behind - is also damaging endemic plant species, a study has found

2021-11-12

Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: Wiki

Research has revealed the environmental impact of cruising and public sex on the dunes of Gran Canaria.

The new paper in the Journal of Environmental Management lays bare the waste discarded in the area, with endemic plant species also impacted.

Researchers explored 298 "sex spots" over two square miles in the Dunas de Maspalomas Special Nature Reserve - legally protected since 1982.

The paper is titled: "Sand, Sun, Sea and Sex with Strangers, the 'five S's. Characterizing 'cruising' activity and its environmental impacts on a protected coastal dunefield."

"Pleasure seekers"

The study, which took place around Gran Can's Pride celebrations, found that the area is prone to discarded cigarettes butts and cans, and even human defecation.

Patrick Hesp, one of the report's authors, confirmed in an article for The Conversation that giant lizards have "died after eating condoms left behind by pleasure seekers."

Hesp explained: "Sex on the beach as an isolated activity is unlikely to damage the environment. The issue starts when a dune area becomes popular for cruising (casual sex) and attracts hundreds of people a day. It’s similar to the impact of 4WD [four wheen drive] driving, which may have a relatively low impact on dune ecosystems if vehicle numbers are low, but leads to major erosion and habitat destruction when vehicle numbers are high.

"We found public sex was particularly damaging to the local nebkhas, the term for discrete dune hummocks covered in plants. That’s because people have trampled many paths through the vegetation, as well as cutting branches off trees and shrubs to make a semi-private space.

"The rare plants are the first ones to disappear. Soon, you lose connectivity for animals. A lizard has to run from one vegetated patch to another, making them more exposed to predators. The whole ecosystem starts to fragment into isolated islands, which can eventually destabilise the ecosystem as a whole."

He added: "We’re not calling for an end to public sex – but we do want people to be aware of the damage it can do."

Known for its year-round warmth and hospitality to LGBTQ travellers, Gran Canaria attracts 14 million visitors a year.