Elephants found dead with stomachs full of plastic at a landfill in Sri Lanka

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2022-01-20 20:43:30

Wild elephants are famously intelligent creatures, known for their ability to empathize unmatched in the animal world. But humanity has put elephants in some difficult situations, and one of the most extreme is a landfill in Sri Lanka.

An endangered herd of Asian elephants has been foraging here for years, and at least 20 have died after ingesting plastic. Tragically, two gentle giants from an endangered group were reported to have died from ingesting discarded human debris last weekend.

According to the news agency AP Reportedly, the landfill is located near the village of Pallakkadu in the eastern part of the country. One vet interviewed said the two deceased elephants had swallowed large amounts of polythene, food wrappers and other plastics. And what’s worse, there isn’t any sign of the food that elephants normally eat in their bodies.

According to the AP, the degradation of elephants’ natural habitat has forced them to migrate closer to humans and landfills. Thirsty for food, the elephants have burrowed into landfills to try their luck. But doing so puts Asian elephants at risk of ingesting things not intended for consumption, including plastic or sharp objects.

Although the Sri Lankan government has had a plan for at least four years to recycle plastic in open-air landfills and install electric fences around them to prevent this mess from happening in the first place, the That effort has yet to materialize. The village of Pallakkadu – which collects waste from nine other villages – used to have an electric fence around the landfill. But it was struck by lightning and hasn’t been repaired or replaced since 2014. And the waste here isn’t recycled properly either.

At other Sri Lankan landfills, the government has resorted to digging huge moats around the dumps to prevent elephants from entering, according to the Daily Sabah. And they also note that as elephant habitats are shrinking, this has increased the risk of conflict between humans and elephants. Large animals are often seen walking into town or through fields.

Elephants found dead with stomachs full of plastic at a landfill in Sri Lanka - Photo 2.

And not only does this Sri Lankan landfill have a particularly grisly history with the deaths of elephants, in many other parts of the world garbage has become a deadly delicacy to animals. At least eight elephants died in 2016 after ingesting toxic plastic from an open dump in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. A 3.5-ton elephant, about 20 years old, died in 2020 after ingesting plastic in Thailand.

The plastic problem also extends to other wildlife species. Sea turtles are notorious for eating plastic, in part because it smells like food. Human-wildlife conflict due to habitat loss is also a problem found around the world. One town in Siberia, for example, has been repeatedly overrun by polar bears in search of food due to diminishing sea ice.

Heartbreaking stories are not only a reminder of the need to preserve nature, but also a reminder that we must end pollution in the first place. Cleanup efforts may only be temporary. The best way to make sure an elephant or any other creature doesn’t die with a belly full of plastic is to “lock the trunk” in the first place.

“Lock the faucet” is the concept of stopping things in the first place, where they arise, like when we use a bucket to collect water. The bucket will overflow eventually and only turning off the faucet will change the problem. And in the issue of plastic waste, some of the world’s major industrial groups like Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil… are the ones keeping the faucets running.

Refer Gizmodo

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