Shocking as it may be to comprehend, an estimated 700 marine animal species are threatened with extinction by the plastic trash that we humans throw out every single day. While modern-day conveniences such as plastic bags may seem indispensable to us, they bring untold suffering to marine animals once we throw them out. Turtles, seabirds, seals, and fish frequently end up entangled in these bags or suffocate due to the sheer weight of trash that ends up in their stomachs. In recent years, there have been a number of tragic, high-profile cases in which a whale or other large marine animal died of starvation because their stomachs were so full of plastic debris that they could no longer eat.

And now, another such case has been reported in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, where a dead orca was found washed up on the shore. After investigating the contents of her stomach, scientists were left in no doubt as to what had killed her. Plett Stranding Network (PSN) co-ordinator Dr. Gwenith Penry revealed that yogurt cups, a shoe sole, and food wrappers had all been found inside the 5.7 meter-long orca and that she had had “very little real food” in her stomach.


These are some of the items found in the whale’s stomach: a truly tragic sight.

The whale had already died by the time she washed up on the shore, so researchers knew there was nothing they could do to save her.

Onlookers could only watch in horror.



Researchers believe the orca was separated from her pod after becoming too ill to keep up with them. The plastic, sea grass, and tube organisms found in her stomach seemed to indicate that she had been attempting to feed in the shallow waters of Plettenberg Bay. Dr. Penry said, “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.”

Sadly, this whale is not the first to suffer such a grisly fate, and most likely, will not be the last. In order to give the marine animals of this earth a fighting chance at survival, there are no two ways about it: we must make an effort to discard plastic from our lives today.


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All image source: News 24