Published: Wed, November 21, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

Dead whale had 115 plastic cups in stomach

Dead whale had 115 plastic cups in stomach

A dead sperm whale found in Indonesia had at least 13 pounds of garbage in its stomach, including 115 plastic cups and two sandals, according to a team of researchers including the World Wide Fund For Nature.

A man collects plastic items from a whale's belly in this picture obtained from social media.

Rescuers from Wakatobi National Park found the 9.5-metre sperm whale late on Monday in waters near Kapota Island, southeast of Sulawesi, after receiving a report from environmentalists that villagers had surrounded the dead creature and were beginning to butcher its rotting carcass, park chief Heri Santoso said.

Indonesia has a plastic problem.

There were more than 1,000 individual pieces of plastic including four bottles, 115 cups, a sack, and 25 single use carrier bags.

During an autopsy veterinarians found more than 80 plastic bags in the whale's stomach.

The shocking discovery comes amid rising concern over the harm of plastic pollution to animals and humans worldwide.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 260 million people, is the world's second-largest plastic polluter after China, according to a study published in the journal Science in January.

The exact cause of the whale's death is not yet known but there are signs that "plastic waste might have triggered it", WWF Indonesia marine species conservation coordinator Dwi Suprapti told AFP.

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Plastics bags are believed to kill hundreds of marine animals there each year.

According to a study published a year ago, researchers found that, by 2015, over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic had been produced by humans since the 1950s.

The Indonesian co-ordinating minister of maritime affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, said that the government had been shocked into action following the discovery of the whale.

"I'm so sad to hear this", he said.

"It is possible that many other marine animals are also contaminated with plastic waste and this is very risky for our lives".

The Indonesia government has been taking steps to encourage shops to end the use of plastic bags, as well as teaching students in schools about plastic waste.

A report released earlier this year warned that the amount of plastic in the ocean could triple in a decade unless litter was curbed.

"This big ambition can be achieved if people learn to understand that plastic waste is a common enemy", he told AP.

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