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"Brazil has inefficient policies in the fight against water pollution," a biologist explained.
The death of a Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) that ate an N95 mask has raised the concern among Brazilian environmentalists about the growing increase in “pandemic residues” which are being improperly discharged into marine ecosystems.
The animal, which was found dead on Juquehy beach in Sao Paulo state, was subjected to an autopsy by the Argonauta Institute for Coastal and Marine Conservation, an NGO focused on the rehabilitation of marine species that are affected by waste dumped into the sea.
"For some time, we have been finding masks. We have found about 135 so far. The penguin case is the first one of an animal that probably died from ingesting the pandemic-related garbage," the Argonauta Institute president Hugo Gallo.
He explained that the animal was probably very weak before dying due to the ingestion of non-degradable health wastes.
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The Magellanic penguins migrate every year from Argentine Patagonia in search of food, but some of them get lost from the group and end up on Brazil beaches.
Animals found alive by the Argonauta Institute are transferred to rehabilitation centers and then returned to the wild, while those that appear dead are subjected to necropsy.
"It is a very serious problem. Brazil has inefficient policies in the fight against water pollution. This happens due to problems regarding education, management, supervision, and legislation," biologist Carla Barbosa explained.