Quantcast

Yogurt Cups, Food Wrappers and a Shoe Found in Stomach of Dead Orca

This. Keeps. Happening. Another whale has been found dead with plastic trash filling its stomach. This time, a 5.7-meter (about 18-foot) female orca washed up on Plettenberg Bay in South Africa, as News24 reported last week.

Marine debris is a major threat to aquatic life. This female orca was found dead in Plettenberg Bay in South Africa with her stomach filled with trash. Photo credit: Plett Hope Spot

Sadly, it appears that the whale had been struggling for some time in the surrounding waters before it was finally found stranded.

"For almost a week, a magnificent Orca has visited our Hope Spot and stayed in the Bay," a Dec. 14 post from the Plett Hope Spot community Facebook page states. "After one successful rescue attempt to return it to the water after beaching last Thursday, by [the National Sea Rescue Institute], today our worst fears were confirmed—this great creature was found dead washed up on Lookout Rocks."

After a necropsy was performed on the killer whale, items such as yogurt cups, the sole of a shoe, food wrappers, seagrass and tubed organisms were found in her stomach, according to Plett Hope Spot Chair and marine mammal researcher Dr. Gwen Penry.

Penry posted several photos of the contents found in the whale's stomach onto her Facebook page. She wrote in the accompanying caption that while the orca's organ and blood samples are still being analyzed to determine the exact cause of death, she suspects that the animal was "starving" because she didn't have actual food in her stomach.

Items found in the orca's stomach. "We can get a very good idea of the condition of the animal and what it was doing in the days leading up to it stranding by examining the stomach contents," said Dr. Gwen Penry, who performed the necropsy. Photo credit: Dr. Gwen Penry

"She had very little real food in her stomach and the stomach lining was disintegrating," she wrote. "We found several large pieces of plastic (yoghurt pots, shoe sole, food wrappers), seagrass and a lot of tubed organisms (yet to be identified). All of this suggests that she was trying to feed in the shallow areas of our bay."

Of course, none of these items are part of an orca's regular diet. "Killer whales off South Africa typically only feed on mammals (seals, dolphins) or large fish and squid," Penry continued. "It is likely that this individual became ill and too weak to hunt with the rest of her pod so moved inshore and tried to feed on what was available and easy to find."

Penry also told News24 about the whale's grisly death that "we're not sure whether it’s cause or effect, but she might have been trying to pick up anything she could. Or she swallowed something earlier on and it blocked her passages, so she felt full, but wasn’t digesting.”

It's clear from a story like this (as well as many, many others) that plastic trash and other marine debris have a major impact on aquatic life. In October, EcoWatch wrote about a mature sperm whale found dead in Taiwan that had vast quantities of plastic bags and fishing nets filling its stomach.

A recent paper published by Environmental Research Letters, A Global Inventory of Small Floating Plastic Debris, suggested there are 15 to 51 trillion microplastic particles in the world’s oceans, weighing somewhere between 93 and 236,000 metric tons.

"This is roughly seven times more than what we thought before," noted EcoWatch insights writer Marcus Eriksen about the comprehensive study.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE 

Bottlenose Dolphins Endure Brutal Capture and Slaughter in Taiji’s Infamous Cove

Congress Bans Plastic Microbeads, Bill Heads to President Obama’s Desk

Exclusive Interview: Researchers Remove Plastic Fork Lodged in Sea Turtle’s Nose

Solar-Powered Water Wheel Removes 350 Tons of Trash From Baltimore Harbor

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) speaks during the North American Building Trades Unions Conference at the Washington Hilton April 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zach Gibson / Getty Images

Colorado senator and 2020 hopeful Michael Bennet introduced his plan to combat climate change Monday, in the first major policy rollout of his campaign. Bennet's plan calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank," using $1 trillion in federal spending to "catalyze" $10 trillion in private spending for the U.S. to transition entirely to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Read More Show Less
Foto-Rabe / Pixabay

When Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in August 2018, its own estimates said the reduced regulations could lead to 1,400 early deaths a year from air pollution by 2030.

Now, the EPA wants to change the way it calculates the risks posed by particulate matter pollution, using a model that would lower the death toll from the new plan, The New York Times reported Monday. Five current or former EPA officials familiar with the plan told The Times that the new method would assume there is no significant health gain by lowering air pollution levels below the legal limit. However, many public health experts say that there is no safe level of particulate matter exposure, which has long been linked to heart and lung disease.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A crate carrying one of the 33 lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Columbia is lifted onto the back of a lorry before being transported to a private reserve on April 30, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Animal welfare advocates are praising soon-to-be introduced legislation in the U.S. that would ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

Read More Show Less
A tornado Monday in Union City, Oklahoma. TicToc by Bloomberg / YouTube screenshot

Extreme weather spawned 18 tornadoes across five states Monday, USA Today reported. Tornadoes were reported in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arizona, but were not as dangerous as forecasters had initially feared, the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less
A woman walks in front of her water-logged home in Sriwulan village, Sayung sub-district of Demak regency, Central Java, Indonesia on Feb. 2, 2018. Siswono Toyudho / Anadolu Agency /Getty Images

A new study has more than doubled the worst-case-scenario projection for sea level rise by the end of the century, BBC News reported Monday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images

The Guardian is changing the way it writes about environmental issues.

Read More Show Less
Blueberry yogurt bark. SEE D JAN / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Having nutritious snacks to eat during the workday can help you stay energized and productive.

Read More Show Less
A 2017 flood in Elk Grove, California. Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

By Tara Lohan

It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.

Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.

Read More Show Less