Malaysia: 4.25kg of plastics in pilot whale

By Jenne Lajiun, 28th March 2015;

Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) provided their heart-wrenching reason as to what killed the pilot whale 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 whale 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 pilot whale probably died from chronic starvation since its stomach did not contain any food as no food could pass 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 pilot whale’s stomach were from.

One of the plastics swallowed [a yellow detergent bag] was manufactured in China.

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

The 3.36 meter-long male mammal, now believed to be a Short-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) and not a Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus) 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 pilot whale 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 pilot whale, which caused its death.

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

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

Source: The Borneo Post

Malaysia: 4.25kg of plastics in pilot whale

1. Alarming find: More than 4kg of plastic were found in the stomach of the pilot whale that died on Wednesday.
2. Latest casualty: Marine researchers getting ready to conduct the post-mortem on the pilot whale assisted by UMS staff.

Malaysia: Marine creatures most at risk
By Ruben Sario, 28th March 2015;

Marine researchers are once again raising the alarm about the dumping of plastic material in the sea following the death of a Short-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) that was found to have ingested 4.25kg of plastic bags.

A post-mortem on the 310kg male pilot whale found that the three compartments of its stomach were filled with 14 pieces of large plastic bags, 11 small plastic bags, 11 plastic sheets and 6m of caution tape, among others.

Also discovered in the confines of its stomach was a yellow detergent bag manufactured in Guangzhou, China, said Universiti Malaysia Sabah Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI) director Assoc Prof Dr Rossita Shapawi.

“After the pilot whale ingested these plastic bags, its stomach was blocked and it could not consume anything else. It starved to death due to the plastic,” she added.

She said it was likely that the pilot whale had mistaken the plastic bags for food.

Giving details to the press about the death of the whale that was estimated to be between two and three years old, she said the pilot whale was the latest casualty of the tonnes of plastic waste in the ocean.

“It is very possible that we will see more marine creatures washed ashore, given the amount of plastic out there,” she said.

She said the pilot whale, initially thought to be a Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus), was discovered by a villager at Likas Bay on March 19 and subsequently taken to the BMRI where it was given round-the-clock care.

Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said the condition of the pilot whale appeared to have improved after it was given antibiotics, painkillers, anti-­parasitic drugs, appetite stimulants, gastric protectants, multivitamins and fluid therapy.

“However, its condition suddenly deteriorated. The pilot whale vomited and died on March 25,” he said.

Sen said wildlife rangers discovered a Pantropical Spotted Dolphin (Stenella attenuata) in waters off the northern Kudat district in September last year that died due to plastic ingestion.

He said Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) were the most common creatures to die in Sabah waters for that same reason.

UMS lecturer for water quality for aqua­culture and marine pollution Dr Abentin Estim said a study last year of several beaches along the state’s west coast found 11,000 pieces of plastic bags per 100m stretch.

“The prevalence of plastic in our sea is a ­serious problem which needs to be tackled,” he said.

Source: The Star

Philippines: Death unnecessary
27th March 2015;

Death is a part of life but it doesn’t have to come early.

There are 83 known species of whales and dolphins worldwide. The Philippines has at least 27 of them. The Davao Gulf is blessed with at least 18 species. And yet most people on the street can’t tell the difference between a whale and dolphin, nor can they tell the names of 5 species found in the Gulf. In fact, they are commonly called ‘fish’ in the news and by the locals when caught in nets.

Whales and dolphins are mammals. They surface to breathe air, give live birth and actually produce milk for their babies and live in tight-knit groups called pods. They are not a danger to humans and have been known to help stranded sailors. They exist in our shadows and live in danger due to us. This is one such event.

D’Bone Collector Museum received a call from Banana Beach near Tagum City that there was a dead stranded whale. The museum team arrived at the site shortly after to recover the whale and determine the cause of death. It was found to be a 2.89 meter Pygmy Sperm Whale (Kogia breviceps). One of three species in the Sperm Whale family. The other would be the much larger Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and the world’s smallest whale, the Dwarf Sperm Whale (Kogia sima). Very little is known about this species of whale and it is considered very rare. Most sightings are of dead ones. So the very fact the Davao Gulf has this species shows the richness in the gulf.

The Tagum City LGU and CENRO were on site to find out more about this rare animal. Through proper education the public can learn how these animals coexist with humans and how, if we are not careful, die as well.

A necropsy was performed (a necropsy is a procedure of examining a dead animal to determine the cause of death. An autopsy is a procedure performed on deceased humans to find out the exact cause of their death). As the stomach was opened, the whale was found to be very healthy with plenty of squid and shrimp remains. Parasites were also present, and in heavy amounts. This species of whale commonly has parasites. It could be from any number of reasons, from their food or a lower immune system due to coming in contact with waste from farm runoff into the Gulf.

The worst part came as the uterus was opened and the whale was found to be pregnant with a 60cm calf or baby whale. It was a moment of silence, not only for the museum team, the staff from the resort and LGU workers. It was realized that not just one whale had died but two. The loss was heavy for all who were there.

As the head area of the whale was opened it was found to be bruised and bleeding due to trauma before death. Bruising is caused when blood fills the area that has been hit or struck. Bruising happens before death, not after. The fact that this whale had bruising and was in healthy condition suggested it had been caught in a net and that the fishermen, fearing it was a shark or fearing damage to their nets as the whale thrashed in attempts to escape the net, hit it. Striking the whale repeatedly would cause the whale to struggle more until it would ultimately drown in the net. The fishermen, realising that a whale holds no commercial value as they are protected, would throw the whale back into the ocean, removing all evidence of their net and crime. The current would then carry the whale to the beach.

What does the death of these two whales bring? Loss of a little known whale. Loss of the genes she would have passed to her unborn baby and one less whale in the pod of already rare whales. We all lost something that day. The whales bones were brought to D’ Bone Collector Museum in Davao City to be used for education. The unborn baby will be what is called a wet specimen, suspended in a preservative to show the beauty and frailness of the unborn. Through their death, they will live on to educate and teach people the fragile and fleeting paradise we call the Davao Gulf.

No one rejoices when a whale dies but those of us at the D’ Bone Collector Museum Inc. will help them live on for our children.

Source: Mindanao Times

An empty detergent packet is among the plastic items found in the pilot whale’s stomach. The Sabah Wildlife Department believes that the plastic item ingested by the pilot whale led to its death.
Photo credit Sabah Wildlife Department

Malaysia: Pilot whale killed by over 4kg of plastic items it mistook for food
By Sandra Sokial, 2015;

Some 4.25kg of plastic material was found in the stomach of the three-metre Short-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) 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’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus) 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 squid-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.”

Source: The Rakyat Post

Malaysia: Plastic bags found in pilot whale

By Ruben Sario, 27th March 2015;

Plastic bags appear to have killed the Short-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) that was found in a weakened state in shallow waters at Likas Bay here nearly two weeks ago.

The mammal died on Wednesday while being cared for at the Borneo Marine Research Unit Institute at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

A post-mortem on the marine mammal revealed that its intestinal tract was filled with plastic bags, a researcher said.

UMS officials are scheduled to announce the death of the whale and its causes today.

The researcher said it showed that the whale might have mistaken plastic bags floating in the sea for jellyfish, which is part of its diet.

This, he added, was the result of the widespread problem of plastic bags being thrown into the sea.

Other marine creatures such as turtles have also been reportedly found dead with plastic bags in their digestive system.

According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, there is an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean with the debris covering an area as large as the United States and India combined.

Marine researchers had initially assumed that the whale was suffering from a chronic bacterial, virus or parasitic infection.

The whale died despite being treated with a cocktail of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication, appetite stimulants and multi-vitamins.

Source: The Star

Short-finned Pilot Whales feed mostly on squid, so the statement claiming that they feed on jellyfish is erroneous.

*The Short-finned Pilot Whale was initially misidentified in media reports as a Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus).

Malaysia: Plastic bags found in pilot whale