Pilot Whale in Thailand Dies After Consuming 80 Plastic Bags

A pilot whale that died in Thailand last week had more than 17 pounds of plastic waste in its stomach, including more than 80 plastic bags, according to an autopsy performed by Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, Agence France-Presse reported.

The male pilot whale was discovered barely alive last week in the southern Thailand province of Songkhla. Rescuers attempted to save the whale, but he died five days later after throwing up five plastic bags. Thai officials said the animal likely thought the plastic bags were food. Pilot whales typically eat squid, octopus, cuttlefish, and small fish. Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, told Agence France-Presse that at least 300 marine animals — including pilot whales, sea turtles, and dolphins — die annually in Thai waters after ingesting plastic.

The incident is the latest in a string of high-profile marine animal deaths demonstrating the increasing levels of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. In April, a 33-foot sperm whale was found on a Spanish beach with 64 pounds of plastic in its digestive system, according to The Washington Post. And in 2016, many of the 30 sperm whales found beached around Europe had plastic debris in their stomachs, including fishing gear and car parts, according to National Geographic.

A Facebook post from Thailand's Department of Marine and Coastal Resources showing the build up of plastic waste in a male pilot whale.