Confronting new images have revealed the cost of Australia's obsession with plastic, with appalled scientists recovering hundreds of fragments from the stomachs of fledgling chicks.
By Nicole Hasham
18 May 2018 — 9:26pm
Deep in their burrows, hungry shearwater chicks on Lord Howe Island await a meal. Their parents have been scouring the sea in search of fish and squid. Instead, they return to feed their babies clothes pegs, bottle tops and Lego pieces.
The flesh-footed sheerwater population at Lord Howe Island is dwindling due to a tidal wave of marine plastic being mistaken for food.
After 90 days the fledglings emerge from their burrows, stomachs bulging with plastic. They prepare for their first flight. Many are so malnourished they die outside the nest. Others make it to the beach, but their undeveloped wings flap in vain and waves engulf them.
Ian Hutton, a naturalist and museum curator on Lord Howe Island, pulls the bodies off the beach. Researchers slice open their stomachs to confirm the cause of death. Once, they found 274 plastic fragments.
“It’s so upsetting to think this bird has been reared by its parents, it’s been fed and it should have a chance to go to sea but it’s died,” he said.