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A Whale Died After Swallowing More Than 80 Plastic Bags

The pilot whale died after ingesting 17 pounds of trash in Thailand. Officials said he thought it was food.

Posted on June 4, 2018, at 1:31 a.m. ET

After five days of fighting to save his life, rescuers held the heaving body of a male pilot whale as he slowly died after consuming 17 pounds of plastic bags.

The team discovered the animal barely alive on Monday, struggling to stay afloat and breathe in a canal near the Malaysian border, Thailand's department of marine and coastal resources said on Facebook. They deployed red umbrellas to shade him from the relentless sun and buoys to keep him afloat as veterinarians tried to help him eat and gave him medicine, staying in the water with him for 24 hours to try to keep him alive, officials said.

He threw up five plastic bags as rescuers tried to save the animal and "stabilize its illness but finally the whale died" on Friday afternoon, the department said.

During their autopsy, rescuers pulled more than 80 plastic bags from his stomach, weighing about 17 pounds. The heaps and piles of waste were so extensive they completely covered the operating room's blue floor and table.

Photos show black bags curled around the dead whale's intestines, his open stomach packed full of crinkled plastic, which officials believe the animal mistook for food.

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist and lecturer at Kasetsart University, told the Agence France-Presse that the young male probably starved to death, as the bags made it impossible for him to eat or digest any nutritional food.

“If you have 80 plastic bags in your stomach, you die,” he told the outlet, noting that pilot whales are not the only ones perishing after consuming plastic.

At least 300 marine animals, such as sea turtles and dolphins, die every year after swallowing plastic in Thai waters.

“It’s a huge problem,” the marine biologist said. “We use a lot of plastic.”

In April, a young, 33-foot-long sperm whale was found dead washed up on a beach in southern Spain. Scientists found 64 pounds of plastic, ropes, and other trash lodged in his stomach, causing an abdominal infection, CNN reported. The animal couldn't digest the waste he had consumed, causing his digestive system to rupture.

“Ask yourself if you will still throw your garbage into the ocean,” Thailand's marine agency wrote.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.