No doubt that you are aware that plastic pollution has become a worrying scourge on our planet’s oceans. But in the latest grim illustration of this problem, we found out that, a sea turtle has been rescued after being found with a belly full of plastic. Now, that the turtle is on the mend the vets say it spent the past month pooping out over 13 grams (0.5 ounces) of nylon bags, netting, and an assortment of other hard plastic trash.
Chelonia mydas (the green turtle) was found by Robert Ubieta, a fisherman from San Clemente del Tuyu, a town on the Atlantic coast of Argentina. And this fisherman had received training from the Mundo Marino Foundation on how to help marine reptiles trapped in fishing nets, immediately got to work aiding the turtle. But when Ubieta brought the turtle to the rescue center of the San Clemente institution on Dec. 29, veterinarians realized that the turtle had other immediate health problems. The phrase “what goes in … must come out” took on a literal meaning for a green turtle that had gobbled up human trash (thinking it was food), only to poop it out later with help from a veterinarian.
A floating plastic bag looks like a jellyfish, and it can be easily mistaken because it is one of their favorite foods, and can easily be digested. That’s why, the turtle had garbage in its belly, just because it had mistaken the trash for its natural food, such as jellyfish, seagrasses, and worms. In 2018, a study found out, that if a turtle eats just one piece of plastic had a 22% chance of dying, and if it eats 14 pieces of plastic, that risk of death rises to 50%.
“Therefore, we began treatment with a medication that favors its peristaltic movements (movements of the digestive tract) and allows it to eliminate what we observed on the (X-ray) plates. Today, the turtle is eating green leaves, mainly lettuce and seaweed,” Ignacio Peña said in a translated statement.
For this year this is the third turtle brought to the foundation. On Jan. 12, the same fisherman found a dead green turtle. After doing a necropsy (an animal autopsy) to that turtle, it showed that the animal also had plastics in its digestive system. The third turtle survived but also expelled trash, in its poo a piece of the nylon bag.
But sea turtles aren’t the only aquatic animals to mistake trash for food. Garbage has even ended up inside fur seals living in a remote part of Chile and whales, including a sperm whale that died with a 220-lb, (100 kilograms).