Jungle Book: Jumbos face new threat - our waste!

No one needs to be told about the mountains of garbage growing bigger and bigger in the IT City.

Is this the 'jumbo solution' for a jumbo problem which Bengaluru has been fighting for years? That's the thought which springs to one's mind on seeing a herd of 10 elephants feeding on a mountain of garbage at Gudalur - a picturesque green valley bordering Tamil Nadu on the Mysuru-Ooty route.

No one needs to be told about the mountains of garbage growing bigger and bigger in the IT City with no quick-fix in sight. But environmentalists are deeply concerned over this strange sight. What would happen if the jumbos, which include calves, ingest plastic waste and die?

The garbage has been dumped in land leased to Gudalur municipality on the Gudalur-Ooty highway and has become a potential threat to wildlife, especially Asiatic elephants. A shocking video by Shola Trust, an NGO, shows the elephants feeding on the garbage.

One does not have to go far for proof that the waste will turn a killer with the elephant dung containing plastic waste. The inability of the three calves to excrete plastic waste is all the more worrisome as it will remain in their bodies and ultimately cause their death.

The jumbos have been feeding on the waste unmindful of the fact that it contains broken glass bottles and metal waste with sharp edges. In March this year, a 50-year-old female elephant died due to the accumulation of plastic waste in its intestines in Malayattor forest division of Kerala.

The elephant had ingested about 50 plastic bags, polythene covers used to pack food and even a cigarette lighter! The plastic waste was recovered from its digestive tract during the post-mortem.

"Animals like chital, wild boar, langur and bonnet macaque are seen feeding on plastic bags to get to the food leftovers. Plastic once ingested, cannot be digested or excreted by animals easily, so it stays in the gut and prevents digestion," explained Sanjay Gubbi, a Bengaluru-based wildlife biologist.

He added, "Roads passing through protected areas like Bandipur, Nagarhole, Kudremukh and Someshwara have been turned into dustbins for passing tourists. The use of plastic in protected areas should be banned."

Are the big cats too at risk? Locals aver that they have seen a leopard crossing the highway and moving to the dump. Many believe that fencing the dumping ground can keep the animals away. And save Gudalur's famed jumbos before it's too late.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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