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Tusker eats plastic waste thrown by pilgrims, dies

Lakhs of pilgrims, particularly from south India, visit the hill shrine.

A 40-year-old female elephant has died after consuming plastic waste dumped by Sabarimala pilgrims. 

Forest officials found the carcass at Valiyanavattam along the path leading to the pilgrim centre in Pathanamthitta district.

Veterinary surgeon Saseendra Dev, who conducted the autopsy, said the animal had consumed 2 kg of food packaging waste, including plastic bags, biscuit covers and aluminum foils.

“The waste should have been discharged with dung. But large quantity of the non-degradable waste got stuck in the bowels, leading to intestine obstruction. Its colon was ruptured due to constipation. We found the carcass Saturday, a week after the elephant died,’’ he said.

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The two-month-long annual Sabarimala pilgrimage ended in the second week of January. Lakhs of pilgrims, particularly from south India, visit the hill shrine. The government has banned use of plastic bags in the region but the ban has never been effective.

P S Easa, head of wildlife biology division at Kerala Forest Research Institute, said food packaging waste posed a serious threat to elephants and other animals.

“In the past, we have noticed plastic waste in the dung of elephants and deer,” he said. “Many small animals have died in the past but such incidents generally go unreported,” he added.


Easa said the Sabarimala forest region had enough vegetation for elephants. “But the salty content in packaging waste lures them to garbage dumps. Salt is a major attraction that makes elephants consume packaging waste. Some packets also have leftover food,” he said, demanding strict enforcement of the plastic ban in the region.

First published on: 04-02-2014 at 12:13:34 am
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