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Whale dies in Thailand after eating more than 80 plastic bags

The whale vomited plastic as it was being treated, and lived for five days as veterinarians and volunteers tried to save its life.

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Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
2 min read
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Volunteers and veterinarians in Thailand were unable to save the whale.

Thai Department of Marine and Coastal Resources

Think twice before you carelessly discard a plastic bag in the future. A short-fin male pilot whale in Thailand has died after eating more than 17 pounds (17.7 kilograms) of plastic bags and other packaging, the country's Department of Marine and Coastal Resources reported Saturday on its website.

More than 80 plastic bags were removed from the whale's stomach, CNN reports.

The whale was seen looking ill on May 28 in the Na Thap Canal, near Thailand's border with Malaysia, and vomited five plastic bags while a conservation group was trying to save it. It died five days later.

The Thai Department of Marine and Coastal Resources posted grim photos showing the seemingly endless lineup of plastic bags taken from the whale's stomach. While pilot whales generally eat squid, the department said it believed the whale mistook the plastic litter for food.

Thai marine biologist Thon Thamrongnawasawat told Agence France-Presse that the plastic stopped the whale from digesting food.

"If you have 80 plastic bags in your stomach, you die," he said. He said that at least 300 marine animals die in Thai waters each year after eating plastic.

The biologist also posted an impassioned plea on his Facebook page describing the whale's fate.

"We can't help her," he said of the whale. "No one can help a pilot whale with 8 kilograms of plastic bag in (its) stomach."

His post went on to encourage Thais to replace plastic bag usage with reusable bags, writing, "In the meantime, I can only ask, my friend, 'please, don't forget the fabric bag from home.'"