KOTA KINABALU, March 27, 2015:

Some 4.25kg of plastic material was found in the stomach of the three-metre pilot whale that beached itself at Teluk Dayang, near here last week.

The materials were found during a post-mortem on the mammal, initially identified as a Risso Dolphin by the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Rescue Unit.

The unit believes the amount of plastic found in its stomach led to the beaching.

“The team found 21 small plastic bags, 11 plastic sheets, a detergent container and a six-metres long caution tape in the juvenile male pilot whale,” said Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan.

He said the gastric mucosa was severely impaired from the impact of the domestic rubbish, preventing it from digesting food, leading to severe malnutrition and eventually compromised the respiration of the whale, which caused its death.

Sen said the mammal might have consumed these plastic items after mistaking it for squids, which are their usual rations, since squids had similar textural or visual quality with that of plastic.

“Similar reports on squids-eating-whales and dolphins have been found with plastic bags in their stomachs,” he said after a press conference on the matter today.

The pilot whale, estimated to be between two and three years old, was found by a villager on March 19, 2015 and was referred to the UMS’ Borneo Marine Research Institute the next day.

The mammal was found to be emaciated and weak with multiple superficial wounds from stranding.

Antibiotics, pain killers, anti-parasitic drugs, appetite stimulants, gastric protectants, multivitamins, and fluid therapy as well as force feeding was done over a period of one week with mild improvement of the condition of the whale.

Sen said the whale, however, suddenly showed signs of deterioration, vomited and died on March 25 at 11.20am, despite stabilising and resuscitation efforts.

“It is very sad indeed. We don’t know how many die in the ocean without being found, but it is a global problem. Not only in Sabah.”

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