Plastic bags, masks, and sanitary napkins were among the waste things discovered in elephant dung near Coimbatore's Maruthamalai. Photograph:( WION )
Forest Department staff and volunteers normally check elephant dung that throws insights such as the dietary pattern and crop raiding habit.
In a viral video from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, wildlife conservationists are seen examining wild elephant dung to study the gentle giant’s diet and health.
In a rude shock to them, among the objects recovered from the dung are masks, plastic bags, biscuit wrappers, milk packets, and even what seem to be sanitary napkins and hairbands.
The duo seen in the video are heard saying that nearly 300 grammes of plastic waste, including large plastic bags, were found in the dung.
"Do we have to wait till elephants die en masse, to act against littering in forest areas ?" laments activist in #coimbatore as milk covers, plastic bags, masks, biscuit wraps etc found in wild elephant dung near Marudhamalai hilltop temple#India #forest #wildlife #TamilNadu pic.twitter.com/vJGKXYoVNq— Sidharth.M.P (@sdhrthmp) January 11, 2022
WION spoke to T Muruganandam, the Founder and President of the Coimbatore Wildlife Conservation Trust, who is seen speaking in the video.
According to him, their team often checks wild elephant dung at various destinations in and around Coimbatore district.
Their team suspects that a nearby garbage dumpyard that was setup in the vicinity of the Marudhamalai foothills, at a place known as Somaiyampalayam Panchayat.
Tragically, this dump yard is situated in an area that elephants pass through in order to reach the Marudhamalai forest area. The dump yard is said to have come up nearly two years ago, and it has become a regular feeding area for them. By repeatedly feeding on the garbage dump, the elephants get used to it. We’ve observed up to five elephants (2 adults, 2 calfs, and 1 subadult) in a group that lives in this region, "Muruganandam added. He expressed worry over the possibility of young elephants also consuming plastics, because they wouldn’t be as resilient as adults and it could choke their systems and lead to death.
After the video was widely circulated, officials are understood to have issued orders to have the garbage dump fenced in to keep elephants away.
However, the activists feel that a permanent solution needs to be found to remove the garbage dump in its entirety, so as to prevent further damage to wildlife.
Muruganandam also highlights the importance of strictly banning the sale and use of plastics in the Marudhamalai temple premises and vicinity, while also ensuring strict fines against those littering and disposing of liquor bottles and plastic waste in forest areas.