Sri Lanka is digging a trench around landfill where elephants go regularly looking for food

Sri Lanka is digging a trench around a rubbish dump to prevent elephants from scavenging for food among mounds of plastic waste.

Regularly elephants swarm to the landfill site near a wildlife sanctuary in the eastern town of Ampara.

Along with food scraps, they consume plastic, which slowly kills them, officials say.

Plastic from landfill sites is a known killer of wild elephants, which are estimated to number about 7,500 in Sri Lanka.

The landfill site in Ampara was created about a decade ago near a protected wildlife zone that is home to about 300 elephants.

The Sri Lankan government has sought to protect elephants and other wildlife by moving to ban the import of most plastic products.

In Ampara, electric fences were installed around the landfill site to keep elephants at bay.

But the fences did not work, prompting the government to dig a moat around landfill site instead.

Despite this, locals say they are sceptical of the government’s plan to deal with the elephants.

“There is no proper plan or a system for this,” said P H Kumara, a member of a local farming collective, told Reuters news agency.

In 2019 alone about 361 elephants died in the island nation which is the highest since it gained independence in 1948.

Killing elephants is illegal in Sri Lanka. The animals are revered, but some farmers view them as pests.

In search of food, they often come into conflict with rural communities, like those in Ampara.