NBC News -- Vandals have destroyed prehistoric rock art in lawless southern
The art, painted or carved on rocks sandwiched by spectacular sand dunes, showcase the changing flora and fauna of the
Highlights include a huge elephant carved on a rock face as well as giraffes, cows and ostriches rendered in caves dating back to an era when the region was not inhospitable desert.
But in a visit to
Tourist officials in Ghat, the nearest large town, said the vandalism started around 2009 when a former Libyan employee of a foreign tour company sprayed over several paintings in anger after he had been fired.
But the destruction has accelerated since the 2011 civil war which ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi and then plunged the sprawling North African country into widespread armed anarchy.
With tourist and archaeologists staying away on safety grounds, hunters have taken over the Acacus massif, shooting much of the wildlife across the arid, rugged landscape.
Weapons are available anywhere these days in a country where the central government based in Tripoli on the northern Mediterranean coast exerts scant authority and the nascent armed forces are no match for armed tribesmen and militias.
"The destruction is not just affecting the paintings but also the natural reserve. Hunters are to blame," said Ahmed Sarhan, a tourist ministry official in Ghat.
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