Local residents were delighted when a young female orca appeared near Plettenberg Bay in South Africa earlier this month, coming together to rescue the whale when she was found beached on the shore. Unfortunately, the joy of the rescue was short-lived. Only a week later, the orca was found dead. When researchers performed an autopsy to find out what killed the whale, they found her stomach was full of plastic and garbage.

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Dr. Gwenith Penry, a marine biologist with the Plett Stranding Network, posted photos of the orca’s stomach contents on Facebook. The orca, she wrote, had been slowly starving with a stomach full of discarded food wrappers, yogurt cups, and even part of a shoe. At the moment, it isn’t clear whether consuming the garbage is what killed the orca, or if the orca had moved closer to shore due to an illness and simply eaten whatever was nearby. Either way, the photos are shocking.

Related: World’s first Ocean Cleanup Array will start removing plastic from the seas in 2016

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This isn’t the first time scientists have discovered marine life full of plastic. A recent study found that 90 percent of seabirds have ingested plastic waste, and a 2013 documentary highlighted the plight of albatross chicks that slowly starve to death when their parents bring back plastic to the nest instead of food. Other studies have found a third of all fish within the UK and half of the world’s sea turtles have also eaten plastic. While some efforts are being made to remove the plastic pollution from the world’s oceans, it will take years, potentially even decades, to tackle the problem.

Via The Dodo

Images via The ORCA Foundation and Gwen Penry