South Florida

Baby turtle ate 104 bits of plastic before washing up and dying, Florida rescuers say

South Florida wildlife rescuers made a disturbing discovery inside the intestines of a baby turtle that recently washed ashore and died.

The young turtle had eaten 104 bits of plastic — which was revealed when rescuers looked inside the animal that was small enough it “would fit in the palm of your hand,” according to the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, Florida.

That turtle wasn’t alone: The city-run nature center said in a Facebook post Tuesday that 100 percent of the weak or small turtles that haven’t survived washing ashore on the coast this season in the area had ingested plastic.

“It is safe to assume they each have plastic inside of them,” said Whitney Crowder, rehabilitation coordinator at Gumbo Limbo, according to WPTV.

Crowder said dozens of the area’s 121 wash-back turtles this season have died, the TV station reported.

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“This is a sad reminder that we all need to do our part to keep our oceans plastic free,” center workers wrote in the post, which has been shared thousands of times as of Thursday afternoon.

The center also shared a photo of a small turtle, with row after row of plastic debris lined up beside the animal. At least one Facebook commenter was somewhat incredulous and asked if all that plastic was found in one animal.

Center staff responded that “yes, all of this plastic came from one tiny turtle. Many of these young turtles are dying from plastic impaction. The plastic plugs them up and causes them to go into septic shock.”

“We perform necropsies on all turtles that die in our care which is how we determine cause of death,” the center said. “Plastic pollution is the sad world we live in now. We must do better.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.