When a giant whale washed ashore on an Indonesian beach, it wasn’t immediately clear why the creature had died. When its stomach was cut open, the contents were astonishing, as it was clear that human carelessness played a huge part in the animal’s demise. The dead whale washed up on an eastern beach in Indonesia, with rescuers finding the 31-foot male sperm whale’s rotting carcass earlier this week.
The whale’s body was found near Kapota waters in the Southeast Sulawesi province, according to Wakatobi National Park chief Heri Santoso.
The animal’s stomach told the story of the its death as, inside, they found so much waste and plastic, it was almost unbelievable. The whale’s stomach contained 115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, two flip-flops, a nylon sack and more than 1,000 other plastic pieces.
Due to its decayed condition when it was discovered, the carcass needed to be buried without conducting a necropsy to determine the animal’s cause of death.
Marine species conservation coordinator at WWF Indonesia, Dwi Suprapti, explained: “Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful.”
According to a study published in the journal Science in January, Indonesia is the world’s second-largest plastic polluter after China, producing 3.2 million tons of mismanaged plastic waste a year. 1.29 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean, according to the study.
Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister of maritime affairs, hoped that the whale’s death will raise public awareness about the need to reduce plastic use. He explained, “I’m so sad to hear this. It is possible that many other marine animals are also contaminated with plastic waste and this is very dangerous for our lives.”
According to Pandjaita, the government is looking to implement ways to reduce plastic, such as eliminating plastic bags in stores, as well as taking an education approach, such as teaching children in schools. The hope is that these awareness and educational efforts will reduce plastic use by 70 percent by 2025.
He explained: “This big ambition can be achieved if people learn to understand that plastic waste is a common enemy.”
Among the many people who reacted on social to this devastating animal death were those who were baffled by why this happened. One commenter noted: “This whale DIED because HUMANS are too lazy to put GARBAGE IN A CORRECT PLACE and NOT in the ocean where it looks like food to them. Such a completely needless death!”
Another commenter noted: “What a shame. Humans are destroying everything on this planet. Air, earth, animals, atmosphere. I hope it’s not too late when we finally clean it up.”
Others expressed how emotional this story made them feel, with one person remarking: “This makes me so angry and sad. When will the world wake up?? By the time enough people care, it will be an enormous undertaking to make it right.”
Others agreed, with one person adding: “breaks my heart… if people only knew what they are destroying…our beautiful amazing planet” and another commenter simply asking: “How many times does this have to happen before we wake up?”