The plastic waste littered in forest areas by tourists is taking a toll on the health of wild elephants in the State, with jumbos ingesting the non-biodegradable waste along with food.
If the recent incidents are any indication, the ‘plastic-free tourism’ campaign conducted by various agencies over the past few years, including the Forest Department, is yet to yield the desired results in the State.
In the latest such case, Forest Department officials recovered 50 plastic carry bags, cigarette lighter and polythene cover of packed food items from the digestive tract of an elephant that was found dead in the Kuttampuzha Range, under the Malayattoor Forest Division, recently.
“The 50-year-old female elephant died of constipation, which was caused by accumulation of the plastic items in its intestine,” said Kuttampuzha Forest Range officer T S Mathew, adding that the elephant was suspected to have fed on plastic waste dumped by tourists visiting the fringe areas of forest.
“While it is the first such incident reported in the Malayattor Forest Division, an elephant and a Sambar deer were found dead near Sabarimala a few months ago, after eating plastic carry bags. Viscera examination of many elephants that died in the area in the past had shown presence of plastic in their bodies,” stated a report submitted by Deputy Director of the Periyar West Division in the High Court. Similar incidents were reported in the Vazhachal forest area in the past.
Veterinary experts said eating plastic waste would cause fatal damage to the body of wild animals as the waste materials block their digestive tract, causing death due to constipation.
“With the tourist inflow increasing considerably in recent years, the Forest Department has been keeping a tab on the tourists and penalising those who litter non-biodegradable waste in forest areas.
“There are provisions in the Wildlife Protection Act to charge case against such violators,” said Forest Department officials, adding that more stringent measures were needed to tackle the menace.