A dead whale that washed ashore in eastern Indonesia had a large lump of plastic waste in its stomach, including drinking cups and flip-flops, reports the AP. The discovery caused concern among environmentalists and government officials in one of the world's largest plastic-polluting countries. Rescuers from Wakatobi National Park found the rotting carcass of the 31-foot sperm whale late Monday near the park after receiving a report that villagers were beginning to butcher the carcass, said park chief Heri Santoso. Researchers then found 13 pounds of plastic waste in the animal's stomach: 115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, two flip-flops, a nylon sack, and more than 1,000 other assorted pieces.
"Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful," said Dwi Suprapti, a WWF Indonesia marine species conservation coordinator. Indonesia is the world's second-largest plastic polluter after China, per a Science study in January. It produces 3.2 million tons of plastic waste a year, of which 1.29 million tons ends up in the ocean. Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia's coordinating minister of maritime affairs, said the whale's discovery should raise awareness about the need to curb plastic use. "I'm so sad to hear this," said Pandjaitan, who added that the government is trying to cut use of plastic. Measures include urging shops not to provide plastic bags for customers and aiming to reduce overall plastic use by 70% by 2025. (Plastics are showing up in humans, too.)