Marium, the dugong that became known as Thailand’s “sweetheart” after going viral in April, has died.
According to the The Guardian , the veterinarians that treated Marium off the island of Koh Libong, in south Thailand’s Trang province, believe that the dugong likely died from an infection due to ingesting plastic.
The four-month-old Marium shot to fame in April, when adorable photos of the dugong hugging her vets went viral online. Last week, she began showing signs of stress and refused to feed following an encounter with another dugong in the ocean.
Marium was moved to a nursery tank for closer monitoring on Wednesday, but died three days later, according to The Guardian.
An autopsy conducted on the popular dugong found signs of shock, as well as evidence of tiny pieces of plastic in her intestine, Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation noted in a Facebook post.
Bruises were also found on Marium, likely the result of an aggressive encounter with another dugong.
“Everyone is sad about this loss,” Nantarika Chansue, director of Chulalongkorn University,s aquatic animal medicine unit in Bangkok, told the The Guardian. “The thing that needs to be resolved, if we’re going to preserve rare marine animals, is to protect the environment for both people and animals.”
Up until Marium died, veterinarians and volunteers would paddle out to her in canoes to feed her several times a day and give her checkups, The Guardian states.
Dugongs are medium-sized marine mammals, and largely dependent on seagrass communities for survival. On average, their life span is 70 years, and the animals often weigh between 510 to 1,100 pounds, according to the National Geographic. They are typically found in the warm coastal waters between East African and Australia, including the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean.
The Guardian also reported that a younger male dugong named Jamil was found in June in a similar location to Marium, and is currently being cared for in the Phuket Marine Biology Centre.
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