A small pilot whale has died in southern Thailand after swallowing 80 plastic bags, officials said.
Thailand’s marine authorities found the struggling marine mammal on Monday, May 28, in the Na Thap Canal, just north of the Malaysian border. Environmental officials used boats to keep it afloat and attempted to nurse it back to health for several days, however, it died on Friday, June 1, reported Channel News Asia.
During the rescue attempt, the whale vomited five plastic bags. After its death, an autopsy revealed that the animal had swallowed 80 plastic bags weighing up to 8kg, according to Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.
The department posted photos of the contents of its stomach to warn about plastic pollution and its effect on marine life.
Marine biologist Thon Thamrongnawasawat told AFP that the bags in its stomach would have stopped the whale from absording the nutrients from its food it needed to survive.
“If you have 80 plastic bags in your stomach, you die,” Thamrongnawasawat told the newswire.
“It’s a huge problem,” he added. “We use a lot of plastic.”
The country struggles with a serious marine plastic pollution where an estimated one million tons of garbage and waste spill into Thai waters annually, according to the Royal Thai Embassy. According to a 2017 report by non-profit Ocean Conservatory, Thailand is one of the world’s top-five plastic polluters, along with China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
“These countries have all succeeded at achieving significant growth in recent years, and they are at a stage of economic growth in which consumer demand for safe and disposable products is growing much more rapidly than local waste-management infrastructure,” the report stated.
Many social media users have expressed their concern about the ongoing plastic problem.
“A sense of responsibility is more important than the law…” one social media user wrote on Facebook.
“I want everyone to be responsible for themselves, society, and for our children,” another user wrote.
Thailand residents have implemented a number of systematic efforts to clean up plastic from beaches and streets, reported UPI in 2017.
Local initiatives such as the Clean the Beach Boot Camp have been set up to get local residents on board in raising awareness about plastic pollution as well as to organize garbage cleanups around the country.