As the illegal “haphazard disposal of garbage” continues unabated in Sri Lanka those “mountains of rubbish” near elephant habitats and elephant sanctuaries pose a real danger for the “hundreds of Sri Lanka’s 7500 wild elephants” that currently hang around and forage for food in those dump sites.
Reportedly at a dump site in Digampathana, a north central province of Sri Lanka, an elephant was recently spotted “trying to open a plastic sack to get at an onion” and unsuccessful, ended up consuming the whole thing, plastic and all.
Jayantha Jayewardene, author of the books “The Elephant in Sri Lanka” & “Sri Lanka’s Tame Elephants” expressed his concern for the elephants that are making themselves sick by eating plastic. And despite a government ban on “non-biodegradable polythene” and the threat of prosecutions for the illegal dumping of garbage, enforcement of these illegal acts is rare.
One wild herd of about 20 elephants*** seems to especially enjoy foraging in their nearby “rubbish dump”. (***This elephant herd lives near the town of Habarana, an area popular for elephant tourism due to the large numbers of elephants in the nearby Minneriya Sanctuary.)
The elephants are seen in photos (shown here at The Daily Mail) stretching out their trunks through electric fences picking out their fare. Another elephant is spotted with a mass of red plastic mesh he is holding with his trunk and putting directly into his mouth. Another photo shows a solitary Sri Lankan elephant ambling next to an electric fence, a heap of garbage towering over him from behind.
From behind? Yes, it seems the effectiveness of these electric fences are sporadic at best, even when those government-mandated electric fences are erected around those dump sites bordering elephant habitats.
Sadly, this herd of 20 wild elephants, who have completely abandoned their natural behaviors of “foraging in the jungle,” have now become “totally dependent on rubbish”. They stand, anxiously awaiting the hour when the “tractors” show up, overflowing, “to tip the garbage”.
“Smelly garbage” including dangerous plastic scraps and plastic bottles mixed in with foul rotting food; definitely not an environment for our wild elephants to be roaming or consuming food in. When elephants eat such rubbish and ingest dangerous plastics, it not only can, and will, “cause their deaths” but it most definitely will sicken them effectively shortening their lifespan.
And for an endangered species such as the Sri Lankan elephant who are protected by law, it is a tragedy when elephants and all wildlife are injured or die as a result of selfish, careless human acts.
Images: all CC Flickr: elephants and other wildlife at a dump in Sri Lanka eating garbage by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Elephants will eat trash & plastic bottles dumped in Sri Lanka by Dhammika Heenpella
Resource: “Sri Lanka elephants face plastic danger foraging dumps for food” by AFP at The Daily Mail Online
Watch Video on YouTube: “Elephants search for food in garbage dumps in Sri Lanka” by WION
Sri Lankan elephant wiki
Country Profile of Sri Lanka BBC