Beloved dugong dies in Thailand with plastic in stomach

Cheryl Sanders
August 18, 2019

A sick baby dugong whose fight for recovery won hearts in Thailand and cast a spotlight on ocean conservation has died from an infection exacerbated by bits of plastic lining her stomach, officials said yesterday.

Marium had been found bruised after apparently being chased and attacked by a male dugong during mating season, Jatuporn Buruspat, director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, said.

But the lovable mammal died last week after she was left bruised by an attack by a male dugong during the mating season, dying of a combination of shock and ingesting plastic.

An orphaned baby dugong rescued in Thailand earlier this year died on Saturday due to pieces of plastic clogging her digestive system, authorities said.

The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources said that Marium's death should serve as a warning about the effects of plastic waste on wildlife.

The dugong, whom Thais had fondly taken to calling Marium, meaning "lady of the sea", had been under the care of Thai authorities since she was founded stranded on a beach in the southern Krabi province in April. They hoped that both Marium and Jamil would strike out alone in the sea when aged around 18 months, the age at which dugongs leave their mothers in the wild.

The eight-month-old female was named Marium and became popular with residents and tourists after images of biologists embracing and feeding her with milk and seagrass spread across social media.

"Everyone is sad about her passing, but this is an issue that must be urgently resolved", officials from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources in Thailand said on Facebook. The dugong can be seen cuddling and hugging the marine biologists as they feed her milk through a tube with a bottle and as she munches on sea grass underwater. An autopsy confirmed plastic lodged in Marium's intestines had played a role in the creature's death. Their conservation status is vulnerable, and the population is decreasing amid threats of pollution and habitat loss.

Nantarika, one of the veterinarians who Agence France-Presse reported was treating Marium, said on Facebook that she doesn't want the mammal's death to be meaningless. "One thing we haven't been ready for is if there's an emergency", she said.

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