If watching this excruciating 8-minute video of the removal of a plastic drinking straw from the nostril of an innocent sea turtle doesn’t make you want to pick up every piece of trash you see floating in the water (or lying on the street), we may need to check your pulse. In a video that’s gone viral and has now been viewed over 4 million times since it was first published on August 10, a team of scientists performed a very painful looking extraction on a 77-pound olive ridley sea turtle.
According to Christine Figgener, a second-year Marine Biology PhD student at Texas A&M University, whose work focuses on sea turtles, the reptile “likely ate the straw and regurgitated the straw where it ended up in the wrong passageway.” The simple straw has long been a sore subject for conservationists and environmentalists who understand the dangers and wastefulness of one-time-use plastic implements.
As per a January National Geographic report on ocean trash, some 5.25 billion pieces of plastic debris are currently floating around in our global waters, with 269,000 tons floating on the seas’ surfaces, and an additional 4 billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer can be found in the deep sea. Objects like straws, while seemingly innocuous, are clearly hazardous to the countless species that inhabit our oceans, and this video is only a glimpse into the hazards presented by human waste and litter to our animal friends.
Figgener and her team initially believed the straw to be some sort of parasitic worm, but upon closer examination, found it to be an inanimate object. As she explains in her YouTube video description, they ultimately chose to remove the straw themselves as they would’ve faced a number of challenges transporting the turtle back to shore, including trouble finding a vet and the possibility of incurring a fine for bringing the animal onto land.
Happily, they were able to successfully complete the procedure without too much trouble, and they thoroughly disinfected the turtle’s nostril and observed its behavior for a short time before releasing it back into the wild. The video’s success has also prompted a GoFundMe campaign, turning one turtle’s temporary misfortune into what may be the improved fortune of the rest of the species. So stop using straws, folks. And if you must use them, then don’t throw them in the ocean.