It took a tweet from Hollywood superstar Leonardo DiCaprio to bring the issue of trash-foraging elephants in Sri Lanka to global attention. But local conservationists have long been flagging the problem, one they say is rooted in “short-sighted, politically motivated” planning that continues to take its toll on both elephants and people.
On Jan. 26, Oscar winner and environmentalist DiCaprio tweeted to his nearly 20 million Twitter followers a report by the Associated Press on the growing problem of wild Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) dying after feeding in open garbage dumps. Elephants are revered in Sri Lanka, and often feature in cultural and religious events. Yet many of the animals feed alongside stray dogs and crows at these garbage dumps, many of which are located near conservation sites and other protected areas that are home to wildlife.