According to research, some elephants are getting too much plastic in their diets. In India, some Asian elephants consume trash in village dumps, which means they are inadvertently eating packaging, utensils, and other plastic products.

Source: an elephant/Youtube

Some Asian elephants have even been recorded scavenging for food near human settlements and eating large amounts of garbage and even bringing them back into the forest in some parts of India.

“When they defecate, the plastic comes out of the dung and gets deposited in the forest,” said Gitanjali Katlam, an ecological researcher in India.

According to The New York Times, Dr. Katlam first noticed elephants feeding on garbage on trail cameras during her Ph.D. work at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Dr. Katlam was studying which animals were visiting these garbage dumps at the edge of villages in Northern India and at the same time, was also noting the plastic in the elephant’s feces.

Dr. Katlam and her colleagues found plastic in all of the feces near village dumps and the forest near the town of Kotdwar. Although they only walked a mile or two into the forest to look for the feces, they believe the elephants probably carried the plastic even farther.

Dr. Katlam explained that Asian elephants take about 50 hours to pass food and can walk six miles to 12 miles in just a day, which worried researchers because the town of Kotdwar is only a few miles from a national park.

They found that plastic made up nearly 85 percent of the waste found in the elephant feces from Kotdwar, but they also found glass, rubber, fabric, and other waste. Dr. Katlam told The New York Times that the elephants were likely looking for containers and plastic bags because they still had leftover food inside.

This is extremely worrisome not only because plastic pollution is finding its way deep into these forests, but because these huge magnificent mammals are consuming toxic chemicals like polystyrene, polyethylene, bisphenol A and phthalates. Dr. Katlam thinks that this could contribute to a decline in the elephant populations and survival rates. Many elephants have already died from consuming plastic and it poses a huge threat to these animals.

Source: THE WILD ELEPHANT/Youtube

Dr. Katlam told the Times that the Indian government needs to take better stops in managing their solid waste to avoid these issues. She also urges citizens to separate their food waste from containers.

Globally, we produce 300 million tons of plastic every year, 78 percent of which is NOT reclaimed or recycled. Around  8.8 million tons of plastic get dumped into the oceans every year! 700 marine animals are faced with extinction due to the threat that plastic poses to them in the form of entanglement, pollution, and ingestion. 50 percent of sea turtles have plastic in their stomachs. By 2050, 99 percent of all seabird species will have ingested plastic waste. According to a study by the World Economic Forum, there will be one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and if things go on business as usual, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

Read more about how companies like Facebook, Tupperware, Google, Dove,  Budweiser, Carlsberg, and FIJI Water are working towards reducing plastic pollution. Places around the world like Tel Aviv, California, Baltimore, Scotland, and many more are banning various single-use plastics, and others are coming up with creative ways to recycle and use plastic waste.

There are products you may be using or habits you may have that contribute to plastic pollution. Learn more about how the use of Teabags, Cotton Swabs, Laundry, Contact Lenses, Glitter, and Sheet Masks pollute our oceans so you can make more informed decisions going forward. There are also numerous simple actions and switches that can help cut plastic out of our lives including, making your own cosmetics, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, household cleaners, using mason jars, reusable bags/bottles/straws, and avoiding microbeads!

To learn more about the impact of plastic waste, please read the articles below: 

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