Baby Dugong Marium Dies from Ingesting Plastic

Marium, an orphaned dugong, eats sea grass in Trang in May 2019. Photo: Sirachai Arunrugstichai / Courtesy

TRANG — A baby dugong who had become a national darling due to cute clips has died from ingesting plastic. 

While vets initially thought six-month-old Marium, a dugong rescued and taken under the marine state department’s care in May, was suffering in recent weeks from a depressive state caused by an attack by a larger dugong, an autopsy found that Marium’s death Saturday was due to ingesting plastic.

Her time of death was 9 minutes past midnight on Saturday. At 5:52, a team of vets performed an autopsy to find that several pieces of plastic she had ingested were blocking her digestive system. The result was bloating, sepsis, and flooding lungs, according to the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.

Affected was the conservation photographer who first made Marium famous internationally with photos of her cuddling caretakers and munching on seagrass. During an interview, he fondly recalled Marium swimming next to boat hulls resembling the underbellies of adult dugongs, and how she would snore when asleep in people’s arms.

Marium before her autopsy on Aug. 17, 2019. Photo: Department of Marine and Coastal Resources / Facebook
Marium before her autopsy on Aug. 17, 2019. Photo: Department of Marine and Coastal Resources / Facebook

“The cause of death is plastic,” Sirachai “Shin” Arunrugstichai wrote in a message Saturday. “I hope that her story will draws our eyes closer to the issues at sea. I also hope that her death will not be in vain and instead be a call to action for all of us.”

Vets repeatedly tried to resuscitate her after she stopped breathing, but to no avail. 

“We are all saddened by this loss. We want to emphasize the importance of everyone cooperating together if we want to conserve marine animals,” the marine department’s Facebook wrote in a Saturday morning post.

Marium was attacked by an adult dugong Aug. 7, after which her condition declined. Vets were initially able to treat her respiratory problems. Her autopsy also revealed internal bruising, which may be attributed to either the dugong attack or from swimming into rocks. 

Marine and Coastal Resources Minister Warawuth Silpa-archa announced that his department will initiate an ocean cleanup program called the “Marium Project” at a press conference on Saturday.

Marium was airlifted Sunday to Bangkok’s National Museum to be stuffed, after which she will go on display at the Phuket Aquarium.

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