The danger of plastic pollution on wildlife is not a cliché!

Plastic pollution kills thousands of animals every year. Since the beginning of the health crisis, the spread of disposable masks has accelerated this pollution at the expense of an increasingly vulnerable wildlife. To warn and raise awareness of this scourge, shares engaging images of wildlife photographers.

Plastic waste in bird’s beak, a nest made of surgical masks … Through their symbolic images, animal photographers try to draw attention to the catastrophic effects of plastic pollution on wild animals.

Plastic: the 6thth continent

Such a quantity that one speaks of “6th continent ”: Every year, almost 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the oceans. An ecosystem that covers more than 70% of the earth’s surface and supplies 70% of our oxygen. Marine animals (fish, marine mammals, sea turtles) are the biggest victims: more than a million of them die each year from injuries, mutilations and suffocation caused by this detritus. To name just one example – and not least – according to a study by the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (UK) from 2020, 100% of sea turtles have already integrated plastic waste. Recently, in France, the Antibes Wildlife Rehabilitation Center received a young turtle that had been found trapped in a plastic bag (06/10/2022).

Plastic: an odor trap

This Atlantic parrot will have to enjoy the fish he just caught … in a plastic way. © Aurelien Fayolle

Seabirds are also severely affected. ” They choose their food through their sense of smell; however, plastic can be confused with food due to algae and bacteria that emit a strong odor of sulfurexplains the intergovernmental network MedWet, which works to protect the wetlands of the Mediterranean. Seabirds associate this odor with food and fall into “odor traps” that cause them to eat plastic instead of their prey. “.

Many particularly poignant images testify to this. In a snapshot of Aurélien Fayolle, a Puffin swallows a large piece of plastic waste: ” Behind beautiful images also hides a sad reality that must not be avoided.has moved the game photographer. When plastic gets involved … According to a WWF report published in 2018, 90% of seabirds worldwide have plastic fragments in their stomachs (“Plastic pollution in the Mediterranean. Let’s get out of the trap”). A significant rate that could reach 99% by 2050 if public authorities do not take drastic measures to remedy it.

Plastic: also in the city!

Leave the bundle. A sad sign of the time in the third millennium, storks will have no choice but to bring babies in plastic bags. © La Minute Sauvage

Not to mention the garbage that floods the cities! ” Photographing wildlife in an urban environment also means witnessing particularly delicate scenes: In Brussels, I observed a group of white storks coming to feed in a waste sorting plant in the middle of the city.remembers the photographer Thomas Jean in the company of After photographing several storks feeding, I saw this person arrive, hampered by a plastic bag stamped with the universal recycling logo. The handle of the bag surrounded his neck as well as one of his legs. However, she was still able to fly and move on the ground. “.

Despite his efforts, unfortunately, the photographer does not succeed in catching that poor stork to free it from this obstacle. He then came up with the idea of ​​immortalizing this scene to raise awareness among the general public. ” Is it enough to consider the problem of the plastic bag from the angle of its composition while using a “green” logo to solve the problem?asks T. Jean. This image alone answers the question: Our consumption and the use we make of the plastic bag unfortunately leads to real traps for wildlife. »

Plastic: a nuisance exacerbated by the health crisis

If it is now known and condemned, plastic pollution will continue to rise. On the question: The health crisis associated with Covid-19. The surgical masks to protect against the pandemic are themselves made of plastic fibers and contain mostly polypropylene, a thermoplastic used in the manufacture of bottle caps, which can be deadly to wildlife.

No need to teach the old monkey to make faces anymore … they will now be hidden behind a mask. © Mohd Rasfan

A Dutch study published in March 2021 in the journal “Animal Biology” warns against these disposable protections that are responsible for the death of many animals. Trapped in these abandoned objects, exhausted, some did not survive. Others succumbed after ingesting this waste, like a poor Magellanic penguin found dead on a beach in Brazil in the middle of a pandemic with a face mask in his stomach. A few pictures that have become infamous speak for themselves. In January 2021, photographer Mohd Rasfan immortalized macaques chewing the rubber bands from used masks on the heights of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Plastic: act fast!

This plague continues despite the easing of health restrictions. In early June 2022, photographer Frederic Tiller made an unfortunate discovery on the occasion of the Organic Nature Photography Festival in Cusset (03). As he observes Jackdaw’s nest in the city’s tall trees – where the species has become as common as the Rock Pigeon – he sees disposable surgical masks in the middle of the branches forming a nest in the cave of a plane tree. ” A sign that the species does not hesitate to test new materials, which is not without risk to their offspring “, Apologizes the wildlife photographer.

From now on, Jackdaw will have to consider the “cozy” nest literally … using paramedical plastic. © Frederic Tillier

It is up to all of us, citizens and “consumers” to choose environmentally responsible packaging. And states to adopt the necessary measures to reduce the flow of plastic at sea and on land.

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