The Near-Fatal Ingestion of Plastic by a Pygmy Sperm Whale, Kogia breviceps
IAAAM 1994
Brent R. Whitaker; Joseph R. Geraci; Andy Stamper
National Aquarium in Baltimore, Baltimore, MD; Ontario Veterinary College, Guelph, Ontario

On Thanksgiving Day, 1993, an orphaned pygmy sperm whale stranded in New Jersey. She was rescued by the Brigantine Stranding Center and the next day was air-lifted by the Coast Guard to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

The whale was thin, ate very little, and showed signs of gastrointestinal disease. She listed to one side, swam feebly, and was unable to dive more than a few feet. Her condition seemed terminal and euthanasia was among the considered alternatives. Examination showed her stomach was impacted with "squid-pens" entwined with plastic. With the aid of endoscopy, and after repeated attempts, the following materials were removed: a garbage bag, mylar balloon fragments, cellophane, and something resembling a condom.

The whale made a startling recovery; her appearance, behavior, and appetite improved. In thirteen weeks, she gained fifty kilograms and now weighs 144 kilograms. The National Aquarium plans to release the whale, concerned that again she will not be able to distinguish plastic from food and with the hope that one day she will not be faced with that choice.

Speaker Information
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Brent R. Whitaker, DVM, MS
National Aquarium in Baltimore
Baltimore, MD

MAIN : Session IV : Ingestion of Plastic
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