June 3, 2018 11:18 AM NPT
The pilot whale died in Thailand after swallowing more than 80 plastic bags. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
A whale has died in southern Thailand after swallowing more than 80 plastic bags, with rescuers failing to nurse the mammal back to health.
The small male pilot whale was found barely alive in a canal near the border with Malaysia, the country’s department of marine and coastal resources said.
A veterinary team tried “to help stabilise its illness but finally the whale died” on Friday afternoon.
An autopsy revealed 80 plastic bags weighing up to 8kg (18lb) in the creature’s stomach, the department added.
People used buoys to keep the whale afloat after it was first spotted on Monday and an umbrella to shield it from the sun.
The whale vomited up five bags during the rescue attempt.
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.
Thailand is one of the world’s largest users of plastic bags. Thon said at least 300 marine animals including pilot whales, sea turtles and dolphins, perished each year in Thai waters after ingesting plastic.
“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,” wroe one Twitter user.