Sunday 15 September 2019

Little Marium, pride of Thailand, dies after eating dumped plastic

Sorry end: An official from Thailand's Department of Marine and Coastal Resources feeds seagrass to Marium, an eight-month-old dugong, which officials reported yesterday has died. Photo: Sirachai Arunrugstichai via AP
Sorry end: An official from Thailand's Department of Marine and Coastal Resources feeds seagrass to Marium, an eight-month-old dugong, which officials reported yesterday has died. Photo: Sirachai Arunrugstichai via AP

Pitcha Dangprasith

An eight-month-old dugong cared for by marine experts after it was found lost near a beach in southern Thailand in April has died of what biologists say was a combination of shock and eating plastic waste, officials said yesterday.

The female dugong, a large ocean mammal, was named Marium and became a hit in Thailand after images of biologists embracing and feeding it with milk and seagrass spread across social media.

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Vets and volunteers had set out in canoes to feed Marium up to 15 times a day while also giving her health checks.

Last week, she was found injured after probably being chased and attacked by a male dugong during the mating season, said Jatuporn Buruspat, director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.

She was taken for treatment to the artificial sea on Libong Island in Thailand's Krabi province.

"We assume she wandered off too far from her natural habitat and was chased and eventually attacked by another male dugong, or dugongs, as they feel attracted to her," Mr Buruspat said.

A post-mortem examination revealed a big amount of plastic waste in her intestine, which could also have played a part in Marium's death as it led to gastritis and blood infection, he said.

A team of 10 vets performed a post-mortem examination on Marium, and five hours after her death, they concluded that plastic had killed her.

"Many pieces of small plastic clogged her intestines and caused inflammation, leading to blood infection and inflamed lungs," said Nantarika Chansue, director of Chulalongkorn University's aquatic animal medicine unit in Bangkok in a Facebook post.

The dugong is a species of marine mammal similar to the American manatee and can grow to about 3.4m long. Its conservation status is listed as vulnerable.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-arcpha said Marium's death "would remind people all over the world not to dispose of trash into the oceans.".

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