On Nov. 20, reader Sachchidanand Swami sent Plastic Pollution Coalition this photo of two deer eating food waste and plastic garbage inside the campus of an educational institute in Chennai, India. Only three days later, one deer was found dead by forest officials. The deer's stomach was found full of plastic carry-bags and trash.
A few days later, another deer was found dead nearby, again with plastic garbage in its stomach. Officials said the plastic choked the animals to death.
The death of two deer indicates a larger problem in the area. Faculty, students, and even visitors are illegally dumping garbage in the woods on campus. In 2004, volunteers started a zero waste initiative called OWZONE to collect and separate trash, but there is little to penalize violators and the dumping has continued. Monkeys in the area know not to eat the plastic bags, but deer do not, a volunteer from OWZONE told the Times of India.
Sachchidanand would like to see a cultural shift across the world with more people going plastic-free. "My wife and I avoid thin plastic carry-bags while purchasing goods," he said. "We outspokenly suggest people do the same. People living in those sections and blocks of cities and towns which are plastic-free.... should be given higher ratings and concessions... Recycling must be honored and appreciated in society as much as the polluting activities are damned and punished for."
Globally over 260 species of animals, including mammals, have been reported to ingest or become entangled in plastic debris. This often results in impaired movement and feeding, reduced reproductive output, lacerations, ulcers, and death.
For his part, Sachchidanand hopes the photo of the deer will create awareness and help others reduce their waste in India and around the world.