Ocean Plastic Claims The Life Of Yet Another Adorable Marine Animal

A beloved baby dugong in Thailand that had gained Internet immortality has died after ingesting plastic, marking yet another tragedy caused by the plastics industry.

Earlier this spring, marine biologists found an adorable dugong, a mammal related to Florida’s equally adorable manatees, lost and motherless. So, they adopted her and nursed her to health until she could survive in the wild on her own.

But this week, the dugong known to the world as Marium died, not because of some natural struggle, but because of human trash.

Plastics are everywhere. An estimated 150 million metric tons of plastic is floating around the oceans around the globe. In fact, there’s so much of it that even the most remote parts of the oceans yield plastic trash, with 8 million metric tons more being added every year.

And it kills wildlife. Birds mistake it for prey and eat it. Turtles get caught in it and choke to death. And whales turn up dead with guts full of plastic that blocked their digestive tracts.

Dugongs roam the shallow waters between Thailand and Australia. Human activity has already reduced their number to 250 left in the wild, which means they are highly endangered. And now even they are dying because of the plastic by eating it, likely mistaking it as vegetation.

Marium ate plastic, and then she suffered and died due to an infection and clogged intestines that could not be fixed.

Veterinarian Nantarika Chansue, who helped take care of the 8-month-old dugong when she was found as an orphan, mourned the loss on Facebook.

“I found that she passed away with a cause from the initial shock from a fraction of small plastic pieces, blocking the intestine until there are some clogged symptoms and inflammation,” she said. “The first period of treatment can reduce some infection in the system, but in the gastro, there is plastic garbage that can’t be cured.”

“She taught us how to love and then went away as if saying please tell everyone to look after us and conserve her species,” Chansue wrote.

Marine animals around the world are begging for help to get the plastic out of our oceans. Marium’s death should not have happened, but it did because we continue to allow the plastics industry to thrive.

Marium had already recently suffered an attack by male suitors, according to Department of Marine and Coastal Resources Director-General Jatuporn Buruspat.

“We assume she wandered off too far from her natural habitat and was chased and eventually attacked by another male dugong, or dugongs, as they feel attracted to her,” Jatuporn said.

But in the end, it’s the plastics and the humans who produced it and let it get into the ocean, that killed Marium the dugong.

“Everyone is sad about her passing, but this is an issue that must be urgently resolved,” the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources said in a statement. “If we want to conserve rare marine animals so they remain in existence with us, every sector, every person must help with marine trash.”

Marium’s death is already spurring calls to action, but one has to wonder how many more precious marine creatures will die before meaningful action is taken.

Featured Image: Screenshot

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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