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Dead whale had 115 plastic cups, 2 flip-flops in its stomach

A deadwhalethatwashed ashoreineasternIndonesia had a large lump of plasticwaste in itsstomach, includingdrinking cupsand flip-flops, a park official saidTuesday, causing concernamongenvironmentalists and governmentofficialsinoneof the world’s largestplasticpolluting countries.

RescuersfromWakatobiNational Park found therotting carcass of the 9.5-meter (31-foot) sperm whale late Monday near the parkin Southeast Sulawesi province after receiving areport from environmentaliststhat villagers had surrounded the dead whale and werebeginning to butcher the rottingcarcass, park chief Heri Santoso said.

Santoso saidresearchers fromwildlife conservationgroup WWFand the park’s conservationacademyfoundabout 5.9 kilograms (13 pounds)ofplastic waste in the animal’sstomachcontaining 115 plasticcups, fourplasticbottles, 25 plastic bags, 2 flip-flops, a nylonsackand more than 1,000 otherassortedpieces of plastic.

“Although we have notbeen able to deduce thecause ofdeath, the facts that we see are truly awful,” said Dwi Suprapti, a marine speciesconservation coordinator at WWFIndonesia.

She saidit was not possible to determineif the plastic hadcaused the whale’s death because of the animal’sadvanced state ofdecay.

Indonesia, an archipelago of260 million people, is the world’ssecond-largest plastic polluter afterChina, according to a studypublished in thejournal Science in January. It produces3.2 million tons of mismanagedplastic waste a year, of which 1.29 milliontons ends up inthe ocean, the studysaid.

Luhut BinsarPandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating ministerof maritime affairs, said the whale’s discoveryshould raise public awarenessabout the need to reduce plastic use, and had spurredthe government to taketoughermeasures to protect the ocean.

“I’m so sad to hearthis,” saidPandjaitan, whorecently hascampaigned for less use of plastic. “It ispossible that manyother marineanimals are also contaminated with plastic waste and this is verydangerous for our lives.”

He said thegovernment is making efforts toreduce theuse of plastic, including urging shops not to provideplastic bags for customersand teaching about the problem in schools nationwideto meet a governmenttarget of reducing plastic use by 70 percent by2025.

“This big ambition canbe achieved if peoplelearn to understand thatplastic waste is a commonenemy,” he told The AssociatedPress.

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