A killer whale washed up on a beach in South Africa, and when researchers cut the animal open, they found it was literally eating plastic garbage, News24 reported.
The whale, which washed up in Plettenberg Bay, had eaten pots, food wrappers, a shoe, and pieces of plastic.
The ORCA Foundation’s Dr. Gwen Penry posted images of the whale on her Facebook page, which were eventually taken down. They believe the animal became too unwell to hunt with the rest of the pod so it went after food in shallow waters before beaching itself.
“The organ and blood samples will be analyzed in due course to test for toxicology, pathology, microplastics etc.,” she reportedly wrote.
“In the meantime, we can get a very good idea of the condition of the animal and what it was doing in the days leading up to it stranding by examining the stomach contents.”
“In short, this 5.7 meter female was starving! She had very little real food in her stomach and the stomach lining was disintegrating.
“We found several large pieces of plastic (yoghurt pots, shoe sole, food wrappers), seagrass and a lot of tubed organisms (yet to be identified).”
She added: “We’re not sure whether it’s cause or effect, but she might have been trying to pick up anything she could. Or she swallowed something earlier on and it blocked her passages, so she felt full, but wasn’t digesting,” News24 reported.
The exact cause of death has yet to be determined, Penry said.
When dolphins or whales are stranded, it’s likely there is something wrong with them, she said.
Last year, it was reported that biologists from Virginia discovered a whale that ended up near the Chesapeake Bay had choked on a piece of a DVD case.
“It makes me very sad that a piece of plastic that was not disposed of properly ended up killing a whale,” a researcher said at the time, per National Geographic. “It was a preventable death.”