Beloved baby dugong ‘Mariam’ dies in Thailand with plastic in stomach

BANGKOK (AFP) – A sick baby dugong whose fight for recovery won hearts in Thailand and cast a spotlight on ocean conservation has died from an infection exacerbated by bits of plastic lining her stomach, officials said yesterday.

Mariam washed up in shallow waters off southwestern Thailand months ago and photos of her nuzzling playfully next to rescuers quickly went viral.

The discovery soon after of another orphaned dugong brought the sea cows celebrity status, the attention of a Thai princess – who named the second one “Jamil” – and round-the-clock webcasts giving viewers a front-row seat to feedings and treatment.

But Mariam died just after midnight after going into shock and efforts to resuscitate her failed, Head of Trang Province Marine Park Chaiyapruk Werawong told AFP.

“She died from a blood infection and pus in her stomach,” he said, adding they found small amounts of plastic waste in her intestinal tract.

An autopsy showed the plastic had caused obstructions in the animal’s stomach, leading to inflammation and gas build-up, veterinarian Nantarika Chansue posted on Facebook.

“We could partially treat the respiratory infection but the obstruction of plastic rubbish… could not be cured,” she said in the post, calling for her death to serve as a lesson.

“She taught us how to love and then went away as if saying please tell everyone to look after us and conserve her species.”

File photo of Mariam the dugong. PHOTO: AFP