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Wed May 25 09:20:43 SAST 2016

Six elephants die after eating bread bags at Victoria Falls National Park

Agency Staff | 11 March, 2016 08:32
A herd of elephants. File photo.
Image by: PHILIMON BULAWAYO / REUTERS

At least 6 elephants have died in the last 18 months in Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls National Park after swallowing plastic bags found on a dump site, a local conservationist says.

Trevor Lane of the Bhejane Trust, which operates in Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park, said elephants frequently forage in the municipal dump at Victoria Falls. The animals eat "highly-scented" plastic bags (like bread bags) and then (hopefully) pass them out when they defecate.

"The whole park is littered with plastic [from elephant dung]," Lane told News24.

But not every plastic-eating elephant survives. The six known to have died in the last year to 18 months "ingested too much plastic. It actually killed them", he said.

"It must be a terribly agonising death," he added.

Lane is one of the brains behind the Victoria Falls Elefence project. Fundraisers hope to raise $50 000 to build a solar-powered electric fence round the municipal dump to keep the elephants out. 

A video has been uploaded to YouTube by the Elefence community showing the mountains of plastic at the dump and the elephants that forage there.

The Victoria Falls Wildlife Fund, which is part of the project, said in a post to Facebook last week, "Wildlife are often found eating out of the dump site and this has led to illness and death in different species including elephant."

Baboons scavenge in Victoria Falls municipal dump too but they are "far too clever" to swallow plastic, Lane said. "They just pick away at the rubbish," he said. 

Source: News24

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