Elephant that fed on plastic waste dead

Stung by the death of a wild elephant which fed on plastic refuses, Forest Department officials are contemplating a ban on plastic in the Pampa, Sannidhanam and Nilakkal areas of Sabarimala. Discarded plastic refuses are posing threat to ecology and wild animals in the region.

The post mortem analysis of the animal, which was found dead at Valiyanavattom region, indicated that the animal, aged around 40, died of intestinal rupture, said Saseendanath, the forest veterinary surgeon who conducted the post mortem.

Plastic waste, including carry bags, food packets, aluminium foil packets and biscuit covers, was found in the intestine of the animal.

First death this year

This was the first animal causality in the region this year. Elephant deaths due to consumption of plastic material were reported from the region earlier, he said. Discarded plastic posed risk to other animals, including deer and wild boar, as well.

Over one crore pilgrims visit the Sabarimala temple during the nearly 60-day-long Mandalam-Makaravilakku festival season.

The temple is also opened for a week every month. Traders sell packaged food items, including ready-to-eat stuff and snacks, in foil and plastic packets to millions of pilgrims.

Innumerable consumer products packed in plastic covers are also sold to the pilgrims. Huge quantities of refuses, including plastic, are generated in the region.

Animals were attracted by the salt content left in the snack packets, pointed out forest officials.

Water bottles

Though plastic carry bags had been banned in the Periyar forest divisions earlier, there is no ban on the use of plastic in the region. Pilgrims are often found carrying plastic water bottles. Though there were some efforts to collect discarded bottles, management of plastic and other wastes was still an uphill task, he said.

The officials said that they had earlier communicated the need for effective waste management mechanism to the Devaswom authorities.

Heaps of waste

Heaps of plastic and other refuses could be found near Nilakkal, where vehicles ferrying pilgrims were parked. Animals fed on uncovered waste heaps, said the official.

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