Wild elephants in Sri Lanka have been found with undigested plastic and polythene products in their stomachs after eating trash at a landfill encroaching on their habitat.
Photographer Tharmaplan Tilaxan took the heartbreaking images of foraging elephants in a scrap facility in Oluvil in Jaffna.
The open dump is hidden in the dense jungle of the eastern province. It endangers local elephant populations, who accidentally ingest microplastics in the garbage.
Mr. Tilaxan said: ‘In the eastern province, a herd of wild elephants has a strange and sad habit.
‘Since the end, these elephants have been seen foraging in landfills.’
The landfill is close to the forest bordering the Ampara district. It is believed to be the cause of the new unhealthy behavior.
The garbage from districts such as Sammanthurai, Karaitheevu, Kalmunai, Ninthavur, Addalachchenai, Akkaraipattu, and Alaiyadi Vembu are dumped there.
The landfill was slowly creeping into the nearby forest, becoming easily accessible to the elephants.
Although the fence was set up around the landfill, it has now been broken and cannot prevent them from entering.
Since the landfill was expanded, the forest has been covered with polythene bags, discarded plastic, and other trash.
Large amounts of undigested contaminants have been found in the excretions of wildlife.
Elephant postmortems showed undigested polythene and plastic products in their stomachs.
The Elephant herd is now accustomed to foraging too close to human habitats. They have also begun to penetrate the nearby rice fields and villages, searching for more food, causing additional stress. The relationship was inherently strained between the villagers and the wildlife.
Despite some roundtable discussions with the authorities that have come up with various solutions – including constructing a fortified fence around the landfill – no action has yet been taken to stop the Oluvil wild elephants infiltrate into urban areas in search of food, mainly in landfills.
Elephants typically travel more than 30 km (19 miles) a day and seed up to 3,500 new trees per day.