Thursday, August 18

4.25kg of plastics in dolphin

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KOTA KINABALU: Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) provided their heart-wrenching reason as to what killed the dolphin that was found stranded at Likas Bay – 4.25 kilograms of plastic materials were found inside its stomach.

“After seven days under our care at BMRI, the dolphin died. Our post-mortem finding was very sad and disappointing. We hope something will be done about it,” said UMS Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI) director Associate Professor Rossita Haji Shapawi said during a press conference.

“We were surprised to find mainly debris comprising of plastic materials which weighed 4.25 kilograms. There were altogether 44 pieces of plastic materials,” she said.

She added that further checks indicated that the dolphin probably died from chronic starvation since its stomach did not contain any food since no food could past through.

Due to the sad find, she and her colleagues felt that it was high time something was done to highlight the impact of plastics on the environment and that people needed to seriously consider utilising recycled materials.

She also said they had no idea as to where the plastics that were inside the dolphin’s stomach were from.

One of the plastics swallowed was from China.

On the dolphin’s carcass, Rossita said it had been disposed of back to the sea.

The 3.36 meter-long male dolphin, now believed to be a short finned pilot whale and not a risso dolphin as was reported earlier, was found stranded at Kampung Teluk Layang around 6.30am by Abdul Nelsan Mikin on March 19 and was brought to BMRI on the same day.

It was transferred to a 20-ton tank at the BMRI hatchery the next day where supportive treatment continued to be administered. It was also forced fed by the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) team.

Unfortunately, despite the efforts, the dolphin died at 11am on March 25.

“A post-mortem was done by the WRU team and the marine mammal stranding research team at UMS revealed a stomach filled with 4.25 kilograms of plastic materials, which is most likely the cause of stranding for the whale. The gastric mucosa was severely impaired from impaction of the domestic rubbish,” said Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan, who was also present at the press conference.

He said the plastics prevented the digestion of food, leading to severe malnutrition and eventually compromised the respiration of the dolphin, which caused its death.

The reasons why this dolphin ingested these plastics was most likely because dolphins feed on squids (sometimes fish) and so the dolphin could have mistaken the plastics for squids due to similar textural or visual quality of the plastics to squids, he said.

“Similar reports on squids-eating whales and dolphins have been found with plastic bags in their stomachs,” he said.