Whale shark starved to death after consuming plastic bag, says Sabah Wildlife Dept
KOTA KINABALU: A dead whale shark that washed ashore at Menumbok beach in Kuala Penyu district, about 155 kilometres away from here, was believed to have starved to death after consuming a large plastic bag.
The carcass of the male juvenile whale shark was found on Feb 5, by a teacher who happened to be jogging along nearby Tanjung Aru beach.
Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit was alerted and rushed to the scene to conduct necropsy. The team was shocked to find a plastic bag, measuring 46cm in length and 32cm in width, inside the shark's stomach.
According to WRU manager Dr Sen Nathan, the cause of death was due to intestinal obstruction leading to starvation and death and that the plastic was causing a physical obstruction in its gastrointestinal tract.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga, in a statement said, plastic pollution in our ocean is a very serious threat to marine wildlife.
She stressed that the best solution to protect marine animals is to either dispose plastics correctly or stop using them.
Although whale shark is not protected under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment, it is protected under the Fisheries Act 1985 and International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Act 2008.
Meanwhile, Sabah Fisheries Department’s Marine Resource Management Office head Lawrence Kissol said several stranded cases of marine mammals in Peninsula Malaysia were also caused by plastic pollution.
He also highlighted the importance of having proper waste management aimed towards conserving marine species in the country, particularly in Sabah.
He further noted that whale shark or Rhinocodon typus is not allowed to be exploited under the provided Acts.
After the post-mortem, Kissol who also at the site, took parts of the carcass (head and fins) for the purpose of education and awareness programmes.
Tissue samples and the cartilaginous skeleton were also taken for DNA analysis and age prediction.