Hungry elephants look for food in Sri Lanka landfill

Rummaging through heaps of trash, elephants in eastern Sri Lanka look for pieces of wilted vegetable to eat.

They're unaware that the plastic they sometimes pick-up might kill them.

A landfill site in the town of Ampara was created about a decade ago and is one of three garbage areas located next to a wildlife protection zone.

The smell draws in dozens of elephants and other wild animals every day.

P.H. Kumara of the Gal-oya farmers union says the rubbish is fatal for them:

"There is no proper plan or a system for this. Local government institutions have established landfills on the border of the wildlife protection zones. Once that is done the wild elephants and other wild animals who eat the rubbish die."

The government is digging trenches around the dump to ward away the elephants.

They also want to keep the large animals away from the town, where they've been known to destroy crops, property, and even people.

It's a shaky co-existence between the villagers and the wild animals.

Local environmental groups say 361 elephants died last year, mostly because of humans.

While human deaths from elephants range from 20 to 80 a year.

There are around 7,500 wild elephants in Sri Lanka.

Video Transcript

REPORTER: Rummaging through heaps of trash, elephants in eastern Sri Lanka look for pieces of wilted vegetable to eat. They're unaware that the plastic they sometimes pick up might kill them. A landfill site in the town of Ampara was created about a decade ago, and is one of three garbage areas located next to a wildlife protection zone. The smell draws in dozens of elephants and other wild animals every day. P.H. Kumara of the Gal-oya farmers union says the rubbish is fatal for them.

NARRATOR: There is no proper plan or a system for this. Local government institutions have established landfills on the border of the wildlife protection zones. Once that is done, the wild elephants and other wild animals who eat the rubbish die.

REPORTER: The government is digging trenches around the dump to ward away the elephants. They also want to keep the large animals from the town, where they've been known to destroy crops, property, and even people. It's a shaky coexistence between the villagers and the wild animals.

Local environmental groups say 361 elephants died last year, mostly because of humans, while human deaths from elephants range from 20 to 80 a year. There are around 7,500 wild elephants in Sri Lanka.