Shocking find in baby dugong's stomach after untimely death

AFP

A sick baby dugong has died after doctors made a shocking find in her stomach.

The beloved animal, known as Mariam, washed up in shallow waters off southwestern Thailand months ago. As she was being nursed back to health, photos of her nuzzling playfully next to rescuers quickly went viral.

Soon after, another orphaned dugong brought the sea cows celebrity status and the attention of a Thai princess - who named the second one "Jamil" - and round-the-clock webcasts giving viewers a front-row seat to feedings and treatment.

But Mariam died just after midnight on Saturday after going into shock and efforts to resuscitate her failed, Chaiyapruk Werawong, head of Trang province marine park, told AFP.

"She died from a blood infection and pus in her stomach," he said, adding they found small amounts of plastic waste in her intestinal tract.

Mariam the dugong as she is cared for by park officials and veterinarians from the Phuket Marine Biological Centre on Libong island, Trang province in southern Thailand in May. She died on Saturday from plastic in her stomach.
Vets care for Mariam the dugong as she is cared in waters off Libong island, Trang province in southern Thailand in May. Source: AFP

Footage released by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) showed vets attempting to revive Mariam using CPR.

Several pieces of plastic were found in her intestine, with one measuring up to 20 centimetres.

The plastic had caused obstructions in the animal's stomach, leading to inflammation and gas build-up, veterinarian Nantarika Chansue posted on Facebook.

"We could partially treat the respiratory infection but the obstruction of plastic rubbish... could not be cured," she wrote.

"She taught us how to love and then went away as if saying please tell everyone to look after us and conserve her species."

Mariam the dugong lies dead on an operating table. The baby dugong died after vets found plastic in her stomach. The dugong was being cared for by Thai officials after she was found in May.
Vets look at Mariam's body and (right) the plastic which was found in her stomach. Source: Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation

The dugongs are the latest marine creatures to make headlines in Thailand, where plastic-choked waters are increasingly threatening marine habitats.

Both the animals were found in southern Thailand, home to about 250 of the sea cows, which are closely related to the manatee and classified as vulnerable.

Jamil, whose name translates to "handsome sea prince", is being cared for separately in Phuket.

Mariam's death was also announced on the Facebook page of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.

The post quickly garnered more than 11,000 shares and thousands of comments mourning the loss, while a meme with a picture of Mariam and "RIP" circulated online.

"It's a pity for those who fed her milk and collected sea grass for their little daughter that we have to lose Mariam because of plastic waste," one person wrote.

The dugong have a cuddle under water.
The 8-month-old dugong nurtured by marine experts after it was found lost near a beach in southern Thailand has died of what biologists believe was a combination of shock and ingesting plastic waste. Source: AP/Sirachai Arunrugstichai

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