Popular baby dugong dies in Thailand after "ingesting plastic waste"
A baby dugong that was being cared for by marine experts after it was found lost near a beach in southern Thailand has died of what biologists believe was a combination of shock and ingesting plastic waste.
The eight-month-old female was named Marium and became popular with residents and tourists after images of biologists embracing and feeding her with milk and seagrass spread across social media.
Veterinarians and volunteers went out to sea in canoes to feed the marine mammal up to 15 times a day, and also gave her health checks.
Last week, she was found bruised after being chased and supposedly attacked by a male dugong during the mating season, Jatuporn Buruspat, director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, said.
She was brought in for treatment in the artificial sea on Libong Island in Krabi province.
"We assume she wandered off too far from her natural habitat and was chased, and eventually attacked by another male dugong, or dugongs, as they feel attracted to her," he said.
An autopsy showed a large amount of plastic waste in her intestine, which could also have played a part in her death as it led to gastritis and blood infection, he added.
The dugong is a species of marine mammal similar to the American manatee and can grow to about 3.4 metres (11 feet) in length.