Plastic waste in a landfill in Sri Lanka has been blamed for killing about 20 elephants.
In recent years, about 20 elephants have lost their lives after eating plastic waste at a landfill in Balakadu village in Sri Lanka’s Ampara district.
Pallakkadu is located about 210 kilometers east of the capital, Colombo.
In early January, two more elephants were found dead in the landfill, He writes for the AP . news agency.
Investigations into the dead animals showed that they ingested large amounts of non-biodegradable plastic that could be found in landfill, says veterinarian Nihal Pushpakumara.
Food paper, plastic and other indigestible items and water were the only things we found during the autopsy of the elephants. What the elephants usually eat and their digestion has not been clear, Pushpakumara told AP.
Elephants are highly respected in Sri Lanka, but they are also an endangered species.
The population dropped from about 14,000 animals in the 19th century to about 6,000 in 2011, in the country’s first elephant census.
They are becoming increasingly vulnerable due to the restriction of their natural environment.
Many elephants dare to approach human settlements in search of food, which leads to them being killed by poachers or farmers angry that the animals are harming their crops.
So hungry elephants search for waste in the landfill.
There, they end up eating plastic and other sharp objects that damage the digestive system, says vet Pushpakumara.
When elephants swallow a lot of indigestible things, they stop eating and become too weak to keep their heavy bodies upright. When that happens, they become unable to eat or water, which speeds up death, he says.
No action has been taken
In 2017, Sri Lanka’s government announced that it would ensure waste is recycled at landfills near wildlife habitats – specifically to prevent elephants from ingesting plastic waste.
They also promised to erect electric fences around landfills to keep animals away. None of the measures were fully implemented.
Across the country, there are 54 landfills located near wildlife habitats. According to the government, there are about 300 elephants roaming around these landfills.
The waste management site in Pallakkadu village was set up in 2008 with the help of the European Union. Waste collected from nine nearby villages is disposed of, but not recycled.
Save the villagers
In 2014, the electric fence around the landfill was struck by lightning, and authorities have not repaired it since. So elephants have free access to waste in the landfill.
According to the villagers of Balakadu, the elephants settled near the landfill, which sparked fear among the people living nearby.
Many of them use fireworks to chase animals away as they roam the village, and some have built electric fences around their homes.
But according to Keerthi Ranaching of Balakadu local authorities, villagers often don’t know how to erect fences in a safe way, and end up endangering their lives and the lives of elephants.
Although we consider them a threat to local agriculture, elephants are also a resource. National authorities must find a way to protect human life and the life of elephants, at the same time that we can continue farming here, he says.
A representative of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Wildlife told the DPA news agency that the authorities were now planning to close the landfill by digging a pit around it.
– It is the only way to prevent hungry animals from eating garbage in the landfill, which covers an area of about 800 square kilometers, says the actor.
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