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

Plastic pollution kills thousands of animals every year. Since the start of the health crisis, the proliferation of disposable masks has accelerated this pollution, at the expense of ever more vulnerable wildlife. To alert and raise awareness against this scourge, shares committed photos of wildlife photographers.

Plastic waste in the beaks of birds, a nest made of surgical masks… Through their symbolic shots, animal photographers are trying to raise awareness against the catastrophic effects of plastic pollution on wild animals.

Plastic: the 6th continent

A quantity such that one speaks of the “6th continent”: each year, nearly 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the oceans. An ecosystem that covers more than 70% of the earth’s surface and provides 70% of our oxygen. Marine animals (fish, marine mammals, sea turtles) are the main victims: more than a million of them die each year from injuries, mutilations and suffocation caused by this detritus. To cite just one example – and not the 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 took in a young turtle that had been found trapped in a plastic bag (06/10/2022).

Plastic: an olfactory trap

This Atlantic Puffin will have to savor the fish he has just caught… in plastic fashion. ©Aurelien Fayolle

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

Many particularly poignant images bear witness to this. In a snapshot by Aurélien Fayolle, a Puffin swallows a large piece of plastic waste: ” Behind beautiful images, there is also a sad reality that must not be moved the wildlife 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 considerable rate which could reach 99% in 2050 if the public authorities do not adopt drastic measures to remedy it.

Plastic: in town too!

The danger of plastic pollution on wildlife is not a cliché!
Exit the bundle. A sad sign of the times in the third millennium, storks will have no choice but to bring babies in plastic bags. ©La Minute Sauvage

Not to mention the waste 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 that came to feed in a waste sorting plant in the middle of the cityremembers the photographer Thomas Jean, joined by After photographing several storks feeding, I saw this individual arrive, hampered by a plastic bag stamped with the universal recycling logo. The handles 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, the photographer unfortunately does not manage to catch the 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 considering the problem of the plastic bag solely from the angle of its composition, while applying a “green” logo, enough to solve the problem?asks T. Jean. This photo alone answers the question: our consumption and the use that we make of the plastic bag unfortunately lead to real traps for wildlife. »

Plastic: a scourge aggravated by the health crisis

If it is now known and condemned, plastic pollution continues to increase. In question: the health crisis linked to Covid-19. The surgical masks supposed to protect against the pandemic are themselves made of plastic fibers and contain for the most part polypropylene, a thermoplastic used for the manufacture of bottle caps and which can be fatal for wildlife.

The danger of plastic pollution on wildlife is not a cliché!
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 single-use protections, 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 midst of a pandemic, a face mask in its stomach. A few images, which have become infamous, speak for themselves. In January 2021, photographer Mohd Rasfan immortalized macaques chewing the rubber bands of used masks on the heights of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Plastic: act quickly!

This scourge continues despite the relaxation of health restrictions. At the beginning of June 2022, on the occasion of the Ecological Nature Photography Festival in Cusset (03), photographer Frederic Tiller made an unfortunate discovery. As he observes the Jackdaws nesting in the tall trees of the city – where the species has become as common as the Rock Pigeon – he sees disposable surgical masks in the middle of the branches that form a nest in the hollow of a plane tree. ” A sign that the species does not hesitate to test new materials, which is not without risk for their offspring “, laments the wildlife photographer.

The danger of plastic pollution on wildlife is not a cliché!
From now on, the Chouca must consider the “cozy” nest in the proper sense… by using paramedical plastic. ©Frederic Tillier

It is up to all of us, citizens and “consumers” to opt for eco-responsible packaging. And States to adopt the necessary measures to reduce the flow of plastic at sea and on land.

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