Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sri Lanka elephants face plastic danger foraging dumps for food

Hundreds of Sri Lanka’s wild elephants now scavage at rubbish dumps, risking their health due to plastic scraps mixed with rotting food

At a garbage dump in central Sri Lanka a herd of wild elephants forage among a mountain of rubbish, swallowing dangerous scraps of plastic mixed with rotting food in what experts warn is an increasing problem for the revered animals.

Due to illegal dumping near wildlife sanctuaries, hundreds of Sri Lanka’s estimated 7,500 wild elephants now scavenge at rubbish tips and many are being made sick by what they eat, Jayantha Jayewardene, an expert on Asian elephants, said.

“Sri Lanka considers elephants to be a national treasure, but we see these animals reduced to eating rubbish,” Jayewardene told AFP Thursday.

“They have become docile and got so used to tractors bringing them garbage.”

Some wild elephants have become accustomed to scavanging in rubbish dumps instead of foraging in the jungle

A herd of 20 wild elephants at Habarana in the east of Sri Lanka has become totally dependent on rubbish and behaved almost like domestic animals waiting for tractors to tip the garbage.

“These elephants no longer forage in the jungle. They are like zoo animals. It is a sad sight to see national treasures picking through rotting rubbish,” he said.

The animals can be seen covered in smelly garbage and rooting among piles of plastic bottles, a far cry from the majestic jumbos portrayed in travel brochures.

Jayewardene said the solid waste included plastic scraps despite a government ban on non-biodegradable polythene. Hundreds of elephants elsewhere are also known to forage at dozens of rubbish tips near elephant habitats.

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