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Plastic bag killed beaked whale

A simple plastic shopping bag caused the death of a beaked whale, known by local researchers as Temata. In July of this year the stranded beaked whale brought communities across Rarotonga in the Cook Islands together in a large-scale rescue operation to try and save the female.

Local whale researcher Nan Hauser has reported that the whale fell ill after she ingested a plain white shopping bag, a chain reaction in other organs in her body was the cause of her eventual collapse and death. Hauser conducted the necropsy on the whale at Massey University in New Zealand where the stomach, lungs and heart were analysed. However the samples had to be kept in Hauser's freezer before they could be shipped to New Zealand. Scientists, vets and marine mammal researchers from around the globe flocked to the university to witness the necropsy. From the 11 chambers of the whale's stomach, Hauser and her team collected specimens of squid beaks, octopus beaks, fish eye balls and in one chamber the deadly plastic bag. A classic example of why we should all take responsibility for our rubbish and to use as little plastic bags as possible.

Cetaceans and other marine life regularly mistake plastic bags for jellyfish as the ocean current sometimes forces bags to open and close, mimicking the way a jellyfish swims, whales like Temata will immediately swallow them. Sadly, it's too late for this whale but hopefully other whales around the Cook Islands will be saved from such an horrendous death - pollution kills. Please reuse and recycle your rubbish to help protect marine life such as Temata. Small changes in behaviour can make a big difference: for example, a reusable bag to carry your shopping goes a long way.

It has been estimated that over a million birds and 100,000 marine animals, including mammals and turtles, die each year from plastic debris.

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Conservation through education - protecting whales, dolphins and the world's oceans for the future generations