After swallowing nearly 80 plastic bags and several rescue efforts that lasted a span of five days, a whale has died in southern Thailand.
The rescuers failed to nurse the mammal back to health. The small male pilot whale was found barely alive in a canal near the Malaysian border, the country’s department of marine and coastal resources said.
A veterinary team tried "to help stabilize its illness but finally, the whale died" Friday afternoon, AFP reported. An autopsy revealed the creature had nearly 80 plastic bags weighing up to 8kg (18lb) in its stomach, the department added. The whale vomited out five bags during the rescue attempt.
People used buoys to keep the whale afloat after it was first spotted on Monday and an umbrella to shield it from the 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.
Pilot whales mainly feed on squid but are known to eat octopus and small fish when squid are not available, according to the American Cetacean Society, a whale conservation group.
Jatuporn Buruspat, head of the department, said the whale probably thought the floating plastic bags were food. "If you have 80 plastic bags in your stomach, you die," Thamrongnawasawat told AFP.
Thailand is one of the world’s largest users of plastic bags. Thamrongnawasawat 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 also 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," wrote one Twitter user.