Getting a Grip on Plastic Pollution
March 3rd is World Wildlife Day, and this year’s theme is “Life Below Water: for people and planet”.
One of the challenges facing our oceans is plastic waste finding its way into this vital ecosystem. Not only has the introduction of plastics proven hazardous for many aquatic animals, wildlife in coastal regions are also being impacted. A 2015 study by Australian and British scientists determined that 90% of seabirds living today have ingested some form of plastic, and if consumption continues at this rate it could be as high as 99% by 2050*. Mistakenly eating plastic isn’t the only threat to seabirds, items such as plastic straws and fishing line are increasingly finding their way into nests, which can cause big problems for both parents and chicks.
One such bird who had a first-hand (or first-talon) run-in with beach plastic is our Brahminy Kite, Zephyr, who was brought into care from the wild with a piece of fishing line tangled around his foot. The line was wrapped so tightly that it caused permanent damage to his muscles, which is very bad news for a bird that relies on strong talons to catch prey items such as slippery fish. Due to the extent of his injury, Zephyr was unsuitable for release and has instead become an amazing ambassador for his species as part of our Free Flight Raptor Show. Despite the limited use of his foot, Zephyr’s fish-catching days aren’t completely over thanks to a bit of ingenuity from our team of raptor keepers. They’ve created an extra-grippy “faux fish” out of leather that can be thrown into our dam with a treat attached so that Zephyr can swoop down and snatch it up, even with his limitations.
Not only does Zephyr wow visitors with his “fish” catching skills, but he also provides a valuable opportunity to share his story by serving as a reminder for all of us about the major impacts that our seemingly small decisions can have on wildlife. A bit of extra line casually discarded or forgotten after a day of fishing could easily become a life-or-death situation, not only for seabirds but any number of animals who may find themselves entangled.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by the challenges currently facing wildlife, but there are many simple actions that we can take to help. Minimising our reliance on single-use plastics can have a huge impact on the amount of waste in our oceans. Getting into the habit of carrying a refillable water bottle, or replacing plastic straws with a reusable straw such as one made from metal or bamboo, are both small things that can add up to make a difference for wildlife.
Items such as reusable staws, water bottles, and coffee cups are all easily available from Lone Pine's gift shop, with generous discounts available for yearly pass members.
Lastly, next time you take a trip to the beach consider using the opportunity to do a bit of a clean-up. Even if every visitor picks up just a few pieces of rubbish, it will make an impact. Remember: “take three for the sea.” * Each piece of rubbish removed from the beach is one less thing that could end up in the nest, or stomach, of a seabird.