For elephants ingesting plastic trash can have lethal consequences.
Last summer a pilot whale was found dead on a beach in southern Thailand. The cause of death, it soon transpired, was the large amounts of plastic waste in its stomach, including 80 plastic bags, that the mammal had accidentally swallowed.
Yet it isn’t just whales and other sea creatures that are affected by the scourge of plastic waste. So too are land animals, like elephants.
Wild elephants living in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand, a UNESCO World Heritage site home to some 300 pachyderms, have been swallowing plastic rubbish. We know this because locals discovered plastic shopping bags, bags of chips and other plastic waste in their dung left behind on a local highway.
It’s likely that the elephants accidentally swallow plastic wrappings when they go hunting for treats left behind by people at trashcans.
For elephants too ingesting plastic trash can have lethal consequences. Earlier this year a postmortem examination on a 20-year-old female elephant, which was found dead in a forested area in the Indian state of Kerala, showed the pachyderm’s alimentary canal had been blocked with lengthy pieces of plastic. The female jumbo suffered internal bleeding, which led to a failure of her vital organs.
In local forests too plastic waste has been seen in the dung of wild elephants.
India and Thailand are among the world’s largest producers of plastic waste. Thailand alone generates more than 1 million tons of it each year. Measures are underway around the Southeast Asian nation to try and change that. Local retail chains, including Tesco Lotus, have been making efforts, if rather halfheartedly so, to wean shoppers off their prodigious use of disposable plastic bags.
Meanwhile, the country’s National Park Office recently announced a ban on all plastic bags and Styrofoam containers in Thailand’s 154 national parks so as to reduce the amounts of plastic rubbish left behind by visitors.