Marium, Thailand’s celebrity dugong, has died at just eight months old after ingesting our garbage.
The orphaned dugong became internet-famous after videos showed her cuddling caregivers who painstaking paddled out to bottle feed and sing to her each day.
Last week, those caregivers found her listless and bruised. She died shortly after. An autopsy found bits of a plastic bag clogging her intestines, and veterinarians believe she died of an infection made worse by the blockage. Death by plastic is an increasingly common way that humans are killing all the best animals as oceans become filled with our trash.
But according to NPR, Marium’s death was also at least partially due to natural dangers as well:
“In addition to eating plastic, biologists believe Marium was pursued by an overly-aggressive male during the mating season.“‘We assume she wandered off too far from her natural habitat and was chased and eventually attacked by another male dugong, or dugongs,’” said Jatuporn Buruspat, director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.”
Dugongs are mammals similar to manatees that feed on seagrass in warm, shallow waters from East Africa to Australia. Their population is currently being threatened by habitat loss from pollution and development in addition to the plastic that Marium ate. They are listed by the World Wildlife Federation as a species vulnerable to extinction. When they don’t choke to death on our sandwich bags, dugongs live around 70 years, so Marium truly was a baby and deserved much better.
The Thai Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will meet on Monday to discuss a “national dugong masterplan,” in the wake of Marium’s death, which has gained international attention. One proposed solution is turning an entire island into a sanctuary in order to help save the species from extinction.