A wild deer was found dead after swallowing 7 kilograms (15 pounds) of plastic bags and other trash in Thailand, raising the alarm on waste littering the country’s waters and forests.
The Southeast Asian country is one of the world’s largest consumers of plastic, with Thais using up to 3,000 single-use plastic bags each per year, whether for wrapping street food, takeaway coffee or packing groceries.
Marine animals like turtles and dugongs have died in its waste-choked waters, and autopsies have found that plastic in the stomach lining contributed to their deaths.
Now the scourge of plastic waste is affecting Thailand’s animals on land.
Officials said a 10-year-old deer was found dead in Khun Sathan National Park in Nan province, around 630 kilometres (390 miles) north of capital Bangkok.
The 10-year-old wild stag was found with no external wounds or cuts, and had apparently died two days before it was found.
An autopsy discovered “plastic bags in the stomach, which is one of the causes of his death”, said Kriangsak Thanompun, director of the protected region in the Khun Sathan National Park.
The bags contained coffee grounds, instant noodle packaging, garbage bags, towels and also underwear, according to photos provided by the national park.
The animal died from gastrointestinal obstruction combined with old age, according to the department.
The loss of the wild deer is “another tragedy”, Kriangsak said.
“It shows we have to take seriously and reduce… single-use plastic,” he said, calling for “nature-friendly products” to be used instead.
Thailand is ranked sixth in the list of the world’s worst offenders for dumping plastic waste into the sea. Thailand is behind China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka.
Over 50% of the plastic leaking into world oceans comes from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, according to a 2015 report by Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment. A 65% reduction in plastic waste leakage in those five countries would lead to a 45% reduction globally, the report claims.
Several major retailers have pledged to stop handing out single-use plastic bags by January next year.