JAKARTA, Indonesia – A dead–whale–that–washed ashore–in–eastern–Indonesia had a large lump of plastic–waste in its–stomach, including–drinking cups–and flip-flops, a park official said–Tuesday, causing concern–among–environmentalists and government–officials–in–one–of the world’s largest–plastic–polluting countries.
Rescuers–from–Wakatobi–National Park found the–rotting carcass of the 9.5-meter (31-foot) sperm whale late Monday near the park–in Southeast Sulawesi province after receiving a–report from environmentalists–that villagers had surrounded the dead whale and were–beginning to butcher the rotting–carcass, park chief Heri Santoso said.
Santoso said–researchers from–wildlife conservation–group WWF–and the park’s conservation–academy–found–about 5.9 kilograms (13 pounds)–of–plastic waste in the animal’s–stomach–containing 115 plastic–cups, four–plastic–bottles, 25 plastic bags, 2 flip-flops, a nylon–sack–and more than 1,000 other–assorted–pieces of plastic.
“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.
She said–it was not possible to determine–if the plastic had–caused the whale’s death because of the animal’s–advanced state of–decay.
Indonesia, an archipelago of–260 million people, is the world’s–second-largest plastic polluter after–China, according to a study–published in the–journal Science in January. It produces–3.2 million tons of mismanaged–plastic waste a year, of which 1.29 million–tons ends up in–the ocean, the study–said.
Luhut Binsar–Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister–of maritime affairs, said the whale’s discovery–should raise public awareness–about the need to reduce plastic use, and had spurred–the government to take–tougher–measures to protect the ocean.
“I’m so sad to hear–this,” said–Pandjaitan, who–recently has–campaigned for less use of plastic. “It is–possible that many–other marine–animals are also contaminated with plastic waste and this is very–dangerous for our lives.”
He said the–government is making efforts to–reduce the–use of plastic, including urging shops not to provide–plastic bags for customers–and teaching about the problem in schools nationwide–to meet a government–target of reducing plastic use by 70 percent by–2025.
“This big ambition can–be achieved if people–learn to understand that–plastic waste is a common–enemy,” he told The Associated–Press.