The Phuket News Novosti Phuket Khao Phuket

Login | Create Account | Search


Wildlife faces threat from discarded face masks

Wildlife faces threat from discarded face masks

WORLD: Masks that helped save lives during the coronavirus pandemic are proving a deadly hazard for wildlife, with birds and marine creatures ensnared in the staggering number of discarded facial coverings littering animal habitats.

wildlifeCoronavirusCOVID-19environmentSafety
By AFP

Wednesday 13 January 2021, 11:00AM


Face masks are proving a deadly hazard for wildlife - a choking hazard for diminutive macaque monkeys, for example. Photo: AFP.

Face masks are proving a deadly hazard for wildlife - a choking hazard for diminutive macaque monkeys, for example. Photo: AFP.

Single-use surgical masks have been found scattered around pavements, waterways and beaches worldwide since countries began mandating their use in public places to slow the pandemic’s spread.

Worn once, the thin protective materials can take hundreds of years to decompose.

“Face masks aren’t going away any time soon - but when we throw them away, these items can harm the environment and the animals who share our planet,” Ashley Fruno of animal rights group PETA told AFP.

Macaques have been spotted chewing the straps off old and tossed-aside masks in the hills outside Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur - a potential choking hazard for the diminutive monkeys.

And in an incident that captured headlines in Britain, a gull was rescued by the RSPCA in the city of Chelmsford after its legs became tangled in the straps of a disposable mask for up to a week.

The animal welfare charity was alerted after the bird was spotted, motionless but still alive, and they took it to a wildlife hospital for treatment before its release.

“It’s clear the mask was there for some time and the elastic straps had tightened around his legs as his joints were swollen and sore,” said RSPCA inspector Adam Jones.

Cut off mask straps

The biggest impact may be in the water, with green groups alarmed at the flood of used masks, latex gloves and other protective gear finding their way into already contaminated seas and rivers.

More than 1.5 billion masks made their way into the world’s oceans last year, accounting for around 6,200 extra tonnes of marine plastic pollution, according to environmental group OceansAsia.

Smarter Energy Solution Phuket

Already there are signs that masks are worsening threats to marine life.

Conservationists in Brazil found one inside the stomach of a penguin after its body washed up on a beach, while a dead pufferfish was discovered caught inside another off the coast of Miami.

French campaigners Operation Mer Propre found a dead crab ensnared in a mask in a saltwater lagoon near the Mediterranean in September.

Masks and gloves are “particularly problematic” for sea creatures, says George Leonard, chief scientist from US-based NGO Ocean Conservancy.

“When those plastics break down in the environment, they form smaller and smaller particles,” he told AFP.

Those particles then enter the food chain and impact entire ecosystems, he added.

There has been a shift towards greater use of reusable cloth masks as the pandemic has worn on, but many are still opting for the lighter single-use varieties.

Campaigners have urged people to bin them properly and snip the straps to reduce the risk of animals becoming ensnared.

OceansAsia has also called on governments to increase fines for littering and encourage the use of washable masks.

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.

CAPTCHA

Be the first to comment.

 

Have a news tip-off? Click here

 

Phuket community
Phuket tourism falters as infections spread

Go down the Walking Street market on Thalang Rd anytime and you'll see people not wearing masks....(Read More)


Phuket braces for rise in infections

@Nasa12 yeah, that's what I see every day too. I exercise for a few hours every day and constan...(Read More)


New COVID strain in Phuket, infections hit 50

@LALALA "anything what you read in mainstream media" Huh? Try again in English, please. ...(Read More)


Grim warning amid COVID surge

Our wannabe health expert on all subjects and his constant advises are so boring.Kurt please keep st...(Read More)


New COVID strain in Phuket, infections hit 50

A mask would do very little against the Ebola virus which is spread by bodily fluids. Lalala I'm...(Read More)


Phuket retirees refused visa renewal for failing bank balance asked to apply for COVID visa

My friend went he was refused. Saying that he had insufficient income even though his bank balance d...(Read More)


New COVID strain in Phuket, infections hit 50

Kurt, are you sure you are talking about long time effects of COVID and not about the expat communit...(Read More)


Phuket braces for rise in infections

“There is also intensive checking for those coming to Phuket through all three ways, at the Phuket...(Read More)


Phuket tourism falters as infections spread

And, yet, still no vaccinations for non-Thais. Land of Smiles....(Read More)


Non-state vaccines get nod

Just wondering why the ex-pats and Burmese staff working in hotels are not being offered a vaccine. ...(Read More)