Officials fret as wild jumbo spotted gobbling plastic waste in TN's Gudalur

Consuming plastic will not harm an elephant. But if food is stale, it will cause health issues for them, a forest veterinarian said on the condition of anonymity.
Elephant consumes plastic waste along with the leftover food on the roadside at Nellakottai on the Gudalur Sultan Bathery road
Elephant consumes plastic waste along with the leftover food on the roadside at Nellakottai on the Gudalur Sultan Bathery road (Photo | Express)

COIMBATORE: A viral video of an elephant consuming plastic waste along with the leftover food on the roadside at Nellakottai on the Gudalur Sultan Bathery road left activists and forest officials worried. A tourist who was driving from Kerala shot the video, and shared it on social media. Though activists had earlier spotted plastic paper, sanitary napkins, and masks in elephant dung in Maruthamalai foothills and Gudalur, this is the first evidence of an elephant consuming plastic.

Consuming plastic will not harm an elephant. But if food is stale, it will cause health issues for them, a forest veterinarian said on the condition of anonymity. “Since elephants have a simple digestive system, nearly 40 to 50% of whatever they consume will not be digested and released through dung. Elephants suffer diarrhoea and other infection if they consume stale food, chutney, sambar etc that are thrown along the roadsides. A scientific study should be carried out to find out the effects when animals, especially elephants, consume plastics,” he said.

N Sadiq Ali, founder of the Wildlife and Nature Conservation Trust (WNCT) said “The incident shows the poor handling of solid waste by Nellakottai municipality since plastic usage is banned across the district. “The collector M Aruna should order all municipalities and panchayats to clear waste on a regular basis for the welfare of wild animals. Hoardings should be placed whereever possible to raise awareness among tourists to prevent them from dumping garbage in the open.”

Stating that elephant consuming plastic was rare, a senior official of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) said it is difficult to find out who dumps garbage in the open as covering the roadside using CCTV cameras is a Herculean task.

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