Greenpeace has apologized to the people of Peru after activists entered a highly restricted area to leave a message on ancient, sacred desert land.
Activists placed giant, yellow letters spelling out, "Time for change! The future is renewable. Greenpeace," near markings in the earth known as the Nazca lines.
Reuters reports that:
"The Nazca Lines are a set of giant images of plants and animals, such as a monkey, a spider and a hummingbird, excavated in the soil some 1,500 years ago.
The designs can only be fully seen from high altitude, which is a source of diverse theories about how ancient cultures could have made them.
The Peruvian government tries to have strict control over visits to the site, considered vulnerable."
The cloth letters were put under the elongated bill of a hummingbird etched into the ground at the U.N. World Heritage site.
The Guardian reports that access to that area is "strictly prohibited":
"[Peruvian deputy culture minister Jaime] Castillo said no one, not even presidents and cabinet ministers, was allowed where the activists had gone without authorisation and anyone who received permission must wear special shoes. ...
" '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,' Castillo said. 'And the line that they have destroyed is the most visible and most recognised of all.'
"Tina Loeffelbein, spokeswoman for Greenpeace, said the activists were 'absolutely careful to protect the Nazca lines' and that the group was taking the case seriously and investigating."
Part of Greenpeace's apology, issued Wednesday, read: "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."
The group said it meant for the message to be seen by leaders gathering at United Nations climate talks in Peru, with an "urgent message of hope and possibility." Instead, Greenpeace says, they came across as "careless and crass."
Greenpeace's executive director, Kumi Niadoo, is expected to travel to Lima to offer a personal apology.
The Guardian reports that Peru will seek criminal charges against the activists involved in the protest and has barred them from leaving the country in the meantime. According to the newspaper, a lawyer for the activists is seeking "lesser charges of criminal trespass to avoid a trial on felony charges."