A rare deep-water female dolphin stranded on a Florida beach and later euthanised had a stomach full of trash.
Biologists said they found two plastic bags and a shredded balloon during a necropsy of the young rough-toothed dolphin after it washed ashore in Fort Myers Beach, off the southwest Florida coast earlier this week.
“This finding highlights the need to reduce single use plastic and to not release balloons into the environment.” The Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWC) posted on Facebook.
When the young rough-tooth dolphin was found, she was emaciated and in poor health, weighing about 50kgs and measuring 1.7 metres in length.
A healthy adult dolphin of the same breed weighs 158kgs and is 2.5 metres in length, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The biologist decided to "humanely euthanise" the dolphin, according to FWC spokeswoman Michelle Kerr.
Florida Today reports such a young dolphin should have still been with its mother but somehow wound up far from her deepwater home.
Biologists and bystanders worked to help the struggling animal, but wildlife official decided to humanly euthanise the dolphin on-site.
Facebook followers of FWC were shocked by the graphic photos of what was found inside the juvenile dolphin’s stomach.
“I think balloon releases should be outlawed. There are other ways we can honour our loved ones that won't impact the environment,” said one.
“Balloons and those paper lanterns, etc. We have to be mindful of how it impacts the environment and wildlife first and foremost... sooo sad!”
“Humans need to do better! Mother Earth is not a trash can!,” one angry posted commented.
Scientists are still trying to find a cause of death.
"Although a significant finding, there are many additional factors to consider, such as underlying illness, disease and maternal separation, before a final cause of stranding and death for the dolphin can be determined," FWC said.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.