Death is a fact of life. Everything comes and goes in cycles. Just as everything that goes up must come down, everything that is born must die. But just because death is inevitable, does not mean it must be painful or violent. Sperm whales have a lifespan of sixty and seventy years. They weight tens of tons and can grow to be as long as forty feet. They’re massive.
So when one of these undersea leviathans dies and washes ashore, people notice. But in Spain, a sperm whale recently washed ashore and left everyone in shock. Not because it had died but because of how it died. Apparently, this sperm whale passed away because it had swallowed sixty-four pounds of plastic waste.
Beachgoers in southern Spain were horrified to see the sperm whale washed ashore with plastic bags, plastic netting, and a jerry can go inside the whale’s digestive system. The government ordered an autopsy of the creature and found the plastic death sentence inside it. And now Spanish authorities want to clean up the seas, so other underwater mammals do not meet such a painful and tragic end.
The young sperm whale was only thirty-three feet long. And he weighed thousands of pounds. Despite his massive size, he measured nothing compared to a fully grown adult sperm whale. And this made his washing up on Cabo de Palos in Mercia at the end of February even more tragic – because he had so much more life to live if it wasn’t for the poisonous plastic, he swallowed.
Wildlife experts who work at El Valle Wildlife Rescue Centre ordered and completed the autopsy and found the dozens of pounds of plastic inside the whale. And they determined the cause of death was peritonitis, which is an infection of the stomach lining, and was directly linked to the eating of the plastic waste.
The director-general of for natural environment in that area of southern Spain, Consuelo Rosauro, told The Telegraph: “Many animals get trapped in the rubbish or ingest great quantities of plastic which end up causing their death.”
Sperm whales live all over the globe, except for the high Arctic ocean. And they love deep waters where their food source lives in abundance. Sperm whales are easy to identify and are actually a suborder of toothed whales and dolphins, called odontocetes.
The species earned its name sperm whale back during the days of whaling. These whalers would slice open the leviathan’s head and find it loaded with a milky white substance. Right now about 100,000 sperm whales are estimated to live on the planet. But as the ocean waters continue to get polluted with plastics and other harmful objects these animals could be killed more frequently.
Sperm whales love to eat squid.
Hopefully, Spanish authorities can clean up some of the waters near their country. But more nations including the United States should get involved to help preserve the beautiful population of whales and other marine life. We don’t want our beautiful ocean dwellers dying because of the plastic we throw into the water.