A whale in Thailand that died Friday was discovered to have more than 80 plastic bags and other items in its stomach, according to researchers.
Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources said the small pilot whale was found last Monday in a canal near Thailand’s border with Malaysia. Wildlife officials tried for five days to save the whale, but it ended up dying on Friday, the department said on its website.
During the rescue attempt, the whale vomited up five bags while officials used buoys to keep it afloat. An umbrella was even held to protect the whale from the blazing sun above, according to Sky News.
An autopsy conducted on the whale revealed over 80 plastic bags and other plastic items weighing 17 pounds in the animal’s stomach.
Jatuporn Buruspat, head of the department, said the whale probably thought the floating plastic bags were food, Reuters reported.
A veterinary surgeon who carried out the post-mortem on the whale told Sky News the animal was “emaciated” and the plastic bulk in its stomach kept it from eating any nutritional food.
“Animals need nutrients, the brain orders them to eat, but because this is a sick whale, when the whale’s sick he cannot hunt,” Watchara Sakornwimon told Sky News.
“Plastic can get stuck in the stomach,” she said. “That is the worst case for the whale because we need to remove the obstruction first.”
Pilot whales eat primarily squid, but also are known to eat ” octopus, cuttlefish, herring and other small fish when squid is unavailable,” according to whale conservation group American Cetacean Society.
“Its teeth are used only for catching/grasping,” the group noted. “An adult pilot whale may eat up to 30 pounds per day.”
The use of plastic bags is high in Thailand, and authorities have launched campaigns to try to encourage people to use fewer and to introduce reusable bags, according to Reuters.