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Thai officials say locals in Southern Thailand noticed the short-fin male pilot whale looking sick and floating oddly earlier this week, so government veterinarians and people from a whale conservancy organization came in to help.
The sick mammal was given fluids and medicine, then began vomiting plastic Friday and “struggled fiercely” to purge what it could, per the ThaiWhales Facebook page. Sadly, the whale died that afternoon.
After an autopsy revealed the plastic ingestion, a government official said the whale likely thought the bags were food. Marine biologist Thon Thamrongnawasawat said the bags then prevented the creature from ingesting anything nutritional, the Guardian reports. “If you have 80 plastic bags in your stomach, you die,” he explained.
Thailand is among the world’s top users of plastic bags, which kill at least 300 marine animals there annually. “It’s a huge problem,” says Thamrongnawasawat. “We use a lot of plastic.”
But Thailand’s not alone: A recent British study warned that the Earth’s plastic clutter will triple in 10 years if nothing is done.