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

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Emily Deanne

Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.

Read More Show Less
Kokia drynarioides, commonly known as Hawaiian tree cotton, is a critically endangered species of flowering plant that is endemic to the Big Island of Hawaii. David Eickhoff / Wikipedia

By Lorraine Chow

Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Frederick Bass / Getty Images

States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
A couple works in their organic garden. kupicoo / E+ / Getty Images

By Kristin Ohlson

From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A competitor in action during the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championships in Uummannaq, Greenland on April 9, 2001. Michael Steele / Allsport / Getty Images

Greenland is open for business, but it's not for sale, Greenland's foreign minister Ane Lone Bagger told Reuters after hearing that President Donald Trump asked his advisers about the feasibility of buying the world's largest island.

Read More Show Less
AFP / Getty Images / S. Platt

Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.

Read More Show Less
Newly established oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

By Hans Nicholas Jong

Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.

It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."

Read More Show Less