A dead sperm whale has washed ashore on the coast of Indonesia with a stomach full of plastic bottles, plastic bags, flip-flops, fishing ropes, and other plastic trash.
The 9.5-meter (31-foot) sperm whale was found late on Monday, November 19, in Wakatobi National Park, a marine national park in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. WWF Indonesia headed to the scene with environmental authorities after receiving reports that a group of local people had gathered around the whale carcass and appeared to be butchering its body.
They discovered around 5.9 kilograms (13 pounds) of plastic trash in the whale’s digestive tract (pictured below), including at least four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, two pairs of plastic flip-flops, and over 100 plastic cups.
The deceased whale was nicknamed Sobat, which means “friend” or “buddy” in Indonesian. Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry announced they aim to bury the gentle giant on Tuesday, November 20, around the coast of the northern village of Kolowawa Kapota.
Judging by the body's state of decomposition, it’s believed to have died some time ago. Therefore, experts are hesitant to confirm any specific cause of death.
"Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful," said Dwi Suprapti, a marine species conservation coordinator at WWF Indonesia, according to the Associated Press.
Indonesia is the world’s second-biggest producer of plastic trash after China. In fact, just five Asian nations – China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand – account for the majority of plastic waste in the oceans. The latest statistics suggest 3.2 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste came from Indonesia in 2010 and around 1.29 million metric tons of that ended up in the world’s waters.
This is particularly worrying when you consider that Indonesia is rich in biodiversity, home to all kinds of unique or endangered species, such as orangutans, the greater bird-of-paradise, Komodo dragons, and over 1,000 species of fish. Meanwhile, more and more scientific evidence is revealing the grim reality of plastic pollution and its effect on the world's wildlife.
Indonesia has shown some interest in cleaning up its act. Last year, their government pledged $1 billion towards a plan to reduce marine waste by 70 percent within just eight years. However, as this poor whale shows, there is still a long way to go.