WARNING: This story contains graphic images that may disturb some readers.
Experts are sounding the alarm after a young sperm whale was found dead on a beach in Italy with its stomach full of plastic.
According to a statement issued by Greenpeace Italia on Saturday, the whale is believed to have washed up on the popular Sicilian beach of Cefalù on Friday and is believed to be around seven years old.
Greenpeace Italia shared graphic photos of the deceased whale on its Facebook page.
“As can be seen from the images we spread, a lot of plastic was found in his stomach,” Greenpeace Italia campaign manager, Giorgia Monti said in a statement. “The investigations have just begun and we do not yet know if he has died for this, but we cannot certainly pretend that nothing is happening.”
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According to Monti, five sperm whales have been found beached on the Italian coasts within the last five months.
“The sea is sending us a cry of alarm, a desperate SOS,” Monti said. “We must intervene immediately to save the wonderful creatures that inhabit it.”
On Sunday, experts performed a necropsy on the whale.
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Carmelo Isgro, who works at the University of Messina’s Natural History Museum was involved in the procedure and shared graphic videos and images of the necropsy on Facebook.
“I am upset,” he wrote. “Another sperm whale with a full plastic stomach !!!!!”
“Here are the photos that tell the incredible operation of necropsy and scarification carried out yesterday directly on the beach in Cefalù,” he continued. “They are strong images, but I want everyone to see to understand what we are doing to our sea and its inhabitants.”
According to the statement, experts with Greenpeace and The Blue Dream Project have been engaged in a research expedition to monitor plastic pollution levels at sea for three weeks, particularly in the Central Tyrrhenian Sea.
The young sperm whale was found just days after the research project began.
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At the end of March, an eight-metre (26-foot) pregnant sperm whale was found dead off the Italian island of Sardinia with 22 kilograms (48.5 pounds) of plastic in its belly.
The World Wildlife Fund said the garbage recovered from that sperm whale’s stomach included a corrugated tube for electrical works, plastic plates, shopping bags, tangled fishing lines and a washing detergent package with its bar code still legible.
The exam also determined that the whale was carrying a fetus that had died and was in an advanced state of decomposition.
— with files from The Associated Press