End Plastics

5 Animals Saved from Plastic

Our plastic waste has contributed to the deaths of countless animals; pets, farm animals and wildlife, have all been impacted. When animals digest plastics, they are eating toxic chemicals that can poison them. But the consequences of consuming plastics can also mean they miss out on much needed nutrition, especially when plastics in their stomach make them feel artificially full, all while also risking internal injury, intestinal blockage, and even death.

While we must commit to working to reduce plastic production and therefore help to prevent plastics from ending up in the ecosystem to begin with, here are five animals that have been saved from plastics.

Photo credit: CBS News

  • A gray seal in New Jersey is rescued just in time

In New Jersey, a baby gray seal was found tangled in plastic packaging on New Haven Beach by a member of the public.  Rescuers were quickly on the scene and the seal was transferred to The Marine Mammal Stranding Centre in Brigantine. The young pup had made its way to New Jersey by swimming from its birthing grounds in New England and Canada, following its traditional migratory routes, but along the way had become entangled in plastics. 

When the young seal was found, her rescuers reported that she was thin and lethargic, with signs of gastrointestinal issues. Once the plastic was cut off her, she was given electrolytes to boost her energy levels and was allowed to get some much needed rest.

  • Rare dolphins in Mexico face the issue of plastic fishing nets

Vaquita dolphins, a once populous species off the gulf of California, are now critically endangered, with only about ten remaining alive in the wild. Conservationists are trying to save the remaining few. Since 2015, the crew of the ship, The Seahorse, has sailed across Mexico’s waters with local authorities to try to tackle habitat destruction due to plastic pollution. They have removed abandoned fishing nets discarded at sea, with fishing gear being the primary threat to Vaquita dolphins. These nets are made of plastics that entangle, trap and strangle the dolphins — preventing them from feeding, reaching the surface to breathe or protecting themselves. Keeping the creatures free and safe from plastics is critical if they stand a chance of recovering in meaningful numbers — before it’s too late. 

Photo credit: Marine Animal Stranding Center

  • A sea lion in California dodges death by plastic

When an ocean-goer spotted a sea lion near San Juan with plastic slicing deep into its neck, a team from The Whale Museum, authorized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), set off on a risky rescue mission. The entanglement would have killed the seal without intervention. The team darted the sea lion with tranquilizers, and tracked it with a drone until the medicine took effect. They then cut the plastic off to reveal a deep wound near the sea lion’s neck. The rescuers managed to reverse the sedation, and monitored the sea lion as it swam back to the small island it called home, and hauled himself out of the water. In the weeks after his rescue, the sea lion was observed acting normally and socializing with other sea lions near his home. It seems to have made a full recovery but its rescuers encourage everyone to cut their plastic box straps up, and ensure that they go into the trash, and are not left to make their way into the ocean. 

  • A fox in the United Kingdom is nearly suffocated by a plastic bottle

According to Channel 4’s Wildlife Rescue, a panicked fox tried to detach a plastic soda bottle that was jammed onto its head and neck. Foxes are typically apprehensive of  humans, so it was no surprise when this one fled from its would-be rescuers in a terrified state, leading the team on a “wild goose chase” to try to save it. When the team finally removed the plastic bottle, the fox writhed in fear, trying to escape, with the team noting that it could have been trapped there for as long as a week, unable to breath sufficiently, hunt, drink or eat food. Once they got the bottle free, its neck was matted with blood, but the fox was soon treated and set free back into the wild. 

Photo credit: Valley Oak SPCA

  • Abandoned kittens left to die in a plastic bag in California

In a California city, five kittens — each weighing less than a pound — were found tied up in a plastic bag in the middle of a field and discarded like trash. They were saved and transferred to a nonprofit shelter that helps rescued animals recover from abandonment.  “They were in pretty rough shape for the first thirty hours,” their rescuer commented, and had to be force-fed because they were so used to being fed by their mother. Thankfully, the kittens were expected to make a full recovery, and be ready for their forever homes in just five weeks.    

Despite these success stories we can ensure more animals never have to face such life and death situations by educating ourselves on the harmful impact of plastic trash. EARTHDAY.ORG’s End Plastics Campaign is a resource for readers and it is packed with tools to help educate everyone on the dangers of plastics.