Members of the Coimbatore Wildlife Conservation Trust (CWCT), who volunteer for the Forest Department in various activities, were shocked after they found waste materials including sanitary napkin, mask and plastic bags in the dung pile of a wild elephant at Maruthamalai near here.
A video of CWCT president T. Muruganandam and member Kumaravel pulling out the waste materials one by one from the dung pile has gone viral on social media.
“The dung pile was found at the third hairpin bend of Maruthamalai temple road. Three adult elephants and two calves had passed through the area on Sunday night. We went to the location and found the string of face mask in a dung. When we checked the entire dung pile, which could be of a single elephant, we could find plastic bags, sanitary napkin, masala packet cover, milk cover and hair band among others,” said Mr. Muruganandam.
According to him, Forest Department staff and volunteers normally check elephant dung that throws insights such as the dietary pattern and crop raiding habit.
“Though we have seen plastics in dung before, mask and sanitary napkin were found for the first time,” he said.
CWCT secretary P. Shanmugasundaram said that solid waste collected by Somaiyampalayam panchayat was dumped on a site at the foothill where animals including wild boars frequent for food. “The landfill is located on an elephant transit path. Food waste, rotten vegetables and fruits are also dumped at the place. Though the Forest Department had represented the issue with the panchayat many times, no action has been taken,” he said.
Elephant expert N. Sivaganesan said that presence of plastic and other items discarded by humans have become very common in the dung of wild elephants that live in close proximity to human habitations. Around 50 % of elephant dung found near human habitations had waste materials including plastics, he said.
“Elephants are very careful in consuming food and water. The waste materials found in the dung pile at Maruthamalai could have been ingested by the elephant accidentally while eating food waste dumped by people. Only around 50 % of items consumed by elephants are digested properly and the remaining portion is excreted. Though waste like plastic bags may come out with the dung, sharp objects like broken glass pieces could turn fatal to the animal. The Forest Department should create awareness among villagers who live close to forest areas on these issues and strictly stop littering of plastics and other waste materials on elephant transit paths,” said Mr. Sivaganesan.