Sunday, October 12, 2008

Every Litter-bit Hurts

Awhile ago Birdwatcher’s Digest published a piece regarding the surgery necessary on a California condor chick. It seems it was full of garbage people leave where they drop it. That just galls me; hiking anywhere and finding bottle caps, broken glass, pens, lighters, etc. Trash is more than dangerous.

From this single condor chick was removed:
  • 4 bottle caps and a screw top,
  • 3 electrical fittings,
  • 5 washers,
  • 13 22-caliber shell-casings,
  • 1 38-caliber shell-casing,
  • a shotgun-shell,
  • several pieces of plastic bags,
  • about a quarter cup of broken glass,
  • a similar amount of broken plastic,
  • a few small pieces of fabric,
  • 4 small stones,
  • a metal bracket,
  • a piece of wire,
  • and a few small pieces of rubber.

Read the full article here.

Trash tossed or absent-mindedly left behind is more than just unsightly. Trash, especially plastic, can entrap or suffocate mammals, birds, and fish. Small pieces can look like food and be ingested causing harm or death to the animal that eats it. Thousands of birds, fish, turtles and mammals die each year from entanglement in debris. Common items like six-pack rings, fishing line and strapping bands are mistaken for food. Numerous species ingest plastic, which causes them to feel full and die of starvation or poisoning.

Albatross photo: Cynthia Vanderlip, including more info

Remains of an adult Albatross with gut full of plastic (below). Notice the wide variety of bottle caps in this one. With smaller animals, more damage is done by smaller pieces. The plastic goes down the gullet quite easily. But since it is not digested, as in the original plan for all life, it gets stuck before exiting the stomach. There it sits to block the entry and digestion of legitimate food. Even the tiniest of pieces can cause blockages.

Probably the most disgusting thing I’ve read in some time is so absolutely shocking I can’t even talk. Go read it and let me know what you think. Good lord, if this is how our oceans look, imagine what our skies are going to be before too long. Sheeshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... Who knew?

1 comment:

Yadira said...

Why do California condors pick up litter and feed it to their chicks? Biologists don't know for certain although one theory is that the adults are looking for bone chips that they would normally provide to their growing chicks. The California Condor Recovery Program is doing its best to solve this as well as other challenges facing this endangered species. Visit to read more about this species from members of the Condor Recovery Team.