Sri Lanka to ban imports of plastic goods to protect elephants

Elephants crossing a sand road, photo: Bernd Dittrich on Unsplash
Elephants crossing a sand road, photo: Bernd Dittrich on Unsplash

Sri Lanka will ban the import of most plastic products to try to protect wild elephants and deer who die eating the waste, the environment minister Mahinda Amaraweera announced Friday.

Plastic in Sri Lankan landfills is a major killer of elephants, with autopsies showing kilos of it in the stomachs of animals who died after searching for food at dumps.

Amaraweera said the proposed import ban, that covers mainly toys and household utensils, will be extended to local manufacturing, but did not give a timeline.

“Plastics are doing untold damage to our wildlife — elephants, deer and other animals,” Amaraweera told AFP. “We need to take immediate action to stop this situation.”

Sri Lanka has already banned the manufacture or import of non-biodegradable plastic used for wrapping food and shopping bags since 2017. 

Endangered wild elephants are protected in Sri Lanka by law, although clashes with farmers are claiming a heavy toll on both sides.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has given wildlife officials two years to implement a plan to reduce human-elephant conflict that has claimed the lives of 607 elephants and 184 people since last year.

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