When are we going to stop killing our planet and everything on it? Asking for a friend.
In Boca Raton, Florida, a baby turtle washed up on shore and died shortly afterward – the postmortem showing 104 plastic bits in its stomach.
104! Inside a baby turtle! Baby turtles are tiny. Let that sink in for a minute.
On Tuesday, the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center shared a picture of the tiny loggerhead turtle on their Facebook – lying beside all the plastic fragments that ended its little life.
The post has gone viral.
At the center, a sea turtle rehabilitation assistant, Emily Mirowski, examined the little turtle before it passed away.
Mirowski told CNN, “It was weak and emaciated. I could just tell it wasn’t doing well.”
After its tragic death, Mirowski performed an autopsy on the baby turtle, only to discover that its stomach was brimming with plastic – everything ranging from balloons to bottle labels.
“It was really heartbreaking,” Mirowski stated. “But it’s something we’ve seen for several years and we’re just glad people are finally seeing this image and hopefully it’s raising awareness.”
Turtles who are suffering from malnutrition due to plastic consumption have become such a common occurrence, that the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center actually had to place a cooler in front of its building for residents to safely drop off such turtles for rehabilitation!
That is actually how this little baby loggerhead came to the center’s attention.
While there are some turtles who manage to survive their brush with plastic death, there are many more who do not.
According to Mirowski, dozens of washbacks who’ve been dropped off at the center have already died since the start of the washback season. And every single one of those turtles had ingested plastic. Every. Single. One.
Washbacks are turtles who have made their way to the ocean and the Gulf Stream for a few weeks, only to wash back ashore.
When the cute little turtle babies first hatch, they make their way towards mats of floating seaweed – known as sargassum – where they live for the first few years of their lives.
“The issue is that with all the plastic in the oceans, that’s where the plastic sticks,” Mirowski said. “All the microplastics stick to the seaweed, and it looks like food to the baby turtles.”
As Mirowski pointed out, having all that plastic in their bellies gives turtles the feeling that they’re full. The ensuing tragedy is that the turtles then can’t eat and receive the proper, adequate nutrition that they require in order to survive.
By the time the turtles have been found and brought in to the center, they’re already very weak and emaciated.
“We give them a small amount of fluids everyday to get them hydrated,” Mirowski said. “Then we hope they’ll pass the plastic naturally. The important thing is getting them hydrated to get their appetite back.”
Mirowski says the problem isn’t going away until people stop buying plastic products, as well as improperly disposing of them.
“We have to reduce plastic use as much as possible,” she stated. “Not just recycling, but eliminating plastic out of daily use. Every piece of plastic that’s ever been made is still out there. It never goes away, it just breaks down to smaller pieces.”
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.