Warning: This article contains graphic content.
Around 100kg of plastic, ropes and other rubbish has been found in the stomach of a sperm whale that died – and exploded – after stranding on a beach on the Isle of Harris near Scotland.
Posting on Facebook, the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) said a “whole range of plastic” was found in the carcass including plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing.
It added: “All this material was in a huge ball in the stomach and some of it it looked like it had been there for some time.”
It’s not known if the debris contributed to the death of the animal.
SMASS said: “This amount of plastic in the stomach is nonetheless horrific, must have compromised digestion, and serves to demonstrate, yet again, the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life.”
The group also posted a graphic video showing ” most of the guts [blowing] out of the side when we stuck a knife in it”.
Sightings of sperm whales in UK waters are “very rare”, a spokesperson for British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said in October after one of the animals died on the coast near Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.
The group also warned of the dangers of approaching such a carcass, saying: “It is very important to note that cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are mammals like us humans, and therefore able to carry serious diseases that can be transmitted between us.
“We would advise members of the public to avoid all contact with the carcass and any bodily fluids to avoid any risk of infection from them – there is the possibility that this may have been an animal that was already ill.
“Incidents like this do tend to draw crowds and we would urge people to please be respectful of this situation and advice provided.”