THAI officials have reported that a short-finned pilot whale has been killed after swallowing some eight kilograms of plastic bags.
A post on Thailand’s Marine and Coastal Resources Department’s Facebook on Saturday said that the sick whale was unable to swim when found by officials who tried unsuccessfully to save it, reported The Nation.
Found barely alive in a canal near the border with Malaysia, the whale had swallowed more than 80 plastic bags, suffering a convulsion and vomiting five plastic bags. A veterinary team tried “to help stabilise its illness but finally the whale died” on Friday afternoon, the post said.
Thailand is one of the world’s largest consumers of plastic bags, which kill hundreds of marine creatures living near the country’s popular beaches each year.
Photos accompanying the post showed a group of people using buoys to keep the whale afloat after it was first spotted on Monday and an umbrella to shield it from the scorching sun.
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist and lecturer at Kasetsart University, said the bags had made it impossible for the whale to eat any nutritional food. “If you have 80 plastic bags in your stomach, you die,” he said.
At least 300 marine animals including pilot whales, sea turtles and dolphins perish each year in Thai waters after ingesting plastic, Thon told AFP. “It’s a huge problem,” he said. “We use a lot of plastic.”
The pilot whale’s plight generated sympathy and anger among Thai netizens. “I feel sorry for the animal that didn’t do anything wrong but has to bear the brunt of human actions,” one Twitter user wrote in Thai.
Plastic waste’s impact on marine biology is a worldwide problem. A recent study found that most of the 24 endangered sperm whales found dead in the eastern Mediterranean since 2001 were killed by plastic debris.
Additional reporting from AFP.