Trench to keep elephants away from rubbish dump | Sunday Observer

Trench to keep elephants away from rubbish dump

29 November, 2020

A trench is being dug around a rubbish dump in Sri Lanka to deter elephants from scavenging for food among mounds of plastic waste. Elephants regularly swarm to the landfill site near a wildlife sanctuary in Ampara. Along with food scraps, they consume plastic, which slowly kills them, officials said.

Images of the elephants foraging through the waste in Ampara have shocked environmentalists. Plastic from landfill sites is a known killer of wild elephants, which are estimated to number about 7,500 in Sri Lanka.

The landfill site in Ampara was created about a decade ago near a protected wildlife zone that is home to about 300 elephants.

The Government has sought to protect elephants and other wildlife by moving to ban the import of most plastic products.

In Ampara, electric fences were installed around the landfill site to keep elephants at bay.

But the fences did not work, prompting the government to dig a moat around the landfill site instead.

Despite this, locals say they are sceptical of the government’s plan to deal with the elephants.

“There is no proper plan or a system for this,” said P. H. Kumara, a member of a local farming collective said.

A record number of elephants - 361 - died in Sri Lanka during 2019, according to environmental groups.

It was the highest number of elephant deaths to be reported since Sri Lanka became Independent in 1948, conservationists said. Most were killed by people. Killing elephants is illegal in Sri Lanka. The animals are revered, but some farmers view them as pests.Going in search of food, they often come into conflict with rural communities, like those in Ampara.

“The wild elephants that come to the landfill hang around here day and night,” said Kumara.

“Then they go into neighbouring villages and harm the villagers, their property and agricultural land. The end result is that the human-elephant conflict gets worse and we lose elephants that are a national asset.”  - BBC