A palm-sized turtle was found dead in Florida with a staggering 104 pieces of plastic clogging up its intestines.
The tiny animal was discovered by the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, a cooperative project based in Boca Raton, Florida, made up of the City of Boca Raton, the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, Florida Atlantic University and Friends of Gumbo Limbo.
The organisation was monitoring turtles during what it describes as ‘washback season’, when turtle hatchlings that made it to the Gulf Stream start to wash back up along the US coast.
Watch Gumbo Limbo staff talk about the young turtles here:
In a Facebook post, the organisation explained ‘weak, tiny turtles’ washing up on the coastline were in need of help. Unfortunately, not all of the turtles survive.
Whitney Crowder, the rehabilitation coordinator at Gumbo Limbo, told WPTV the organisation has seen 121 washbacks this season, though dozens had died.
A photo of one turtle in particular was shared on Facebook, where Gumbo Limbo explained it had managed to swallow 104 pieces of plastic, despite it being small enough to fit in your hand.
The small chunks of plastic can be seen lined up next to the turtle, made up of everything from balloons to bottle labels.
The pictured turtle was far from an exception, however, as the post continued:
100 per cent of our washbacks that didn’t make it had plastic in their intestinal tracks.
As every single dead turtle was found to have consumed plastic, Crowder pointed out it was ‘safe to assume’ every living turtle has, too.
According to Greenpeace, a truckload of plastic enters the ocean every minute. As the material breaks down, it creates tiny particles called microplastics which can, evidently, be extremely harmful to sea life.
Gumbo Limbo’s rehabilitation team are continuing to work with other washback turtles, hoping they will recover and survive.
However, Crowder told WPTV ‘it is a slow waiting game’, adding ‘unfortunately, a lot of them don’t make it’.
As the world starts to wake up to the impact of plastics on the environment, governments and companies across the globe have started reducing their plastic usage by banning single-use plastics and encouraging people to reuse, recycle, and appropriately dispose of their products.
The poor turtle in the story is just one of millions of sea creatures who are suffering as a result of humans, and Gumbo Limbo pointed out, the image is ‘a sad reminder that we all need to do our part to keep our oceans plastic free’.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.