How Plastic Can Directly Kill Our Animals

How Plastic Can Directly Kill Our Animals

There is nothing incredible from plastics, beside of how hard it is to be naturally decomposed. There are not many choices to do with plastic waste, actually. The only thing we can do to plastic waste is recycling them and produce another kind of plastic product.

So, in clear sense, the first plastic being made centuries ago still exists now, but why are we still making new plastics? This is the problem with our society, we are not producing and consuming plastic wisely. The question is, where did those plastics go now?

There are many places to be the destination of those ‘unused’ and ‘unnoticed’ plastics. The most well-known one is our ocean. You might have heard about a plastic island floating in Atlantic Ocean, and that’s a legit fact.

But that’s not the only destination for those used plastics, there are many other parts in the world being littered by used plastics. The problem is, those plastics pose real threats to our wildlife. Even some of them have died from it. How? This is what we are going to talk about: how plastics pose threats to wildlife.

Kerala Elephant

Kerala Elephant (Wikimedia Commons)

Elephant is a big animal with big appetite, and that’s reasonable since they need more energy to grow into and live with such enormous size. The fact that they are herbivores, as their main source of energy is from plants, meaning that they ‘graze’ a lot.

So, what’s the problem with plastics, according to those facts? Here is the problem: an elephant actually died of eating too much plastics scattered in the forest. This happened in Kerala forest, India, where thousands of pilgrim trek through the forest annually, and hotels are built near the area to facilitate them.

Some of those people are littering the forest with plastic, such as food wraps, plastic bottles, or any other kinds of plastics. They even throw away plastic bags filled up with trashes to the area. Eventually, there are too many plastics littering the forest, and hungry elephants don’t pay much attention to sort out their food before eating.

“We saw lots of plastic waste dumped in plastic bags.  For sure, that was not dumped by the pilgrims but by the cleaning staff and temporary hotel staff. It may take one month to remove that waste from the area,” Praphul S Nair, a volunteer for cleaning plastic waste in Kerala forest stated.

The result is clear: an elephant died of eating too much plastic. While those that still live are not safer, volunteer have also found plastic wrappers present in elephant dungs. “This is not a stray incident. Earlier, bodies of pigs, who play a major role in cleaning the garbage, were also found,” said Nair.

The Pilot Whale

Pilot_whale (Wikimedia Commons)

Similar cases have been found not only in land animals, but also aquatic animals. As we stated before that one of the most favorite place for plastic waste to go is the ocean. Thus, no wonder that aquatic animals are in bigger threat of such thing.

One of the examples is a male pilot whale that was found barely alive in a canal near the border between Thailand and Malaysia. The wale was found very weak and ill that a group of veterinarians tried to rescue this poor cetacean.

However, the efforts done by the vets didn’t go out well, the whale died just a moment after that. To know better about the cause of death, the vets conducted an autopsy to the carcass, finding that the pilot whale actually swallowed enormous amount of plastics.

A statement made by the rescuers even said that the whale itself threw up 5 bags of plastics during the rescue attempt. While in total, discovered in the autopsy process, the whale actually swallowed about 80 bags of plastics.

This is a story need to be spread all around the world to raise people’s awareness of not throwing away plastics recklessly. “If you have 80 plastic bags in your stomach, you die,” said Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist and lecturer at Kasetsart University to The Guardian.

Indonesian Sperm Whale

sperm whale

That was not the only whale becoming the victim of our bad habit. Another whale was also found dead offshore in Indonesian national park recently in 20 November 2018. In line with the topic that we are talking about, the whale died of swallowing too much plastics.

In total, the whale died after eating about 6 kilograms of plastics. The cetacean ate various kinds of plastic products. The autopsy revealed that it swallowed about 115 drinking cups, 4 plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, and a pair of plastic flip-flops.

But was that the cause of death? Most likely so, but researchers weren’t so sure about it. “Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful,” said Dwi Suprapti, marine species conservation coordinator at WWF Indonesia.

However, it was still an awful fact to know that we are collectively killing animals by simply throwing away plastic products. Especially in China and South East Asia, plastic is still a particular problem with 60% contribution to total plastic waste that ends up in ocean.

Plastic bag that ends up in the ocean itself is believed to kill hundreds of aquatic animals annually, not to mention other kinds of plastic waste. UN report stated that there are about 10 tons of plastics floating on our ocean, which bring great threat to our whole aquatic ecosystem.

What’s Next?

Spotted necked otter, Hydrictis maculicollis, at Marievale playi
Spotted Necked Otter Playing With Plastic Bottle

So, we know that plastic is basically killing our wildlife. What can we do to avoid further destruction to the nature caused by plastics? There are so many things that we can do, actually. And most of those things are as simple as flipping the back of our hands.

The first example is just minimizing the use of single-use plastic in our daily activity. Bring your own bag to the store to avoid using plastic bags, avoid using plastic straw when ordering beverages, and bring our own tumbler instead of consuming plastic bottles.

If you have done all of those mentioned above, you can advance further by taking care of your irresistible plastic waste like food wraps or plastic furniture. Make sure to throw away those plastic products in the right waste management plant which recycling plastic.

Those things are not hard to do, and by doing that you can help saving the lives of hundreds of animals. Can you do it?


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