Elephants are respected in Sri Lanka, but they are also endangered. Their number decreased from about 14,000 in the 19th century to 6,000 in 2011 after the first census of elephants in the country.
Due to the loss and degradation of their natural habitat, they are increasingly vulnerable. Many go closer to human settlements in search of food, and some are killed by hunters or farmers who are angry about the damage to their crops.
Hungry elephants are looking for waste in a landfill, eating plastic and sharp objects that damage their digestive system, Pushpakumara said.
“Elephants then stop eating and become too weak to keep their heavy frames upright. When that happens, they can’t consume food or water, which speeds up their deaths,” he said.