BANGKOK: A wild deer was found dead after swallowing 7 kilograms (15 pounds) of plastic bags and other trash in Thailand, an official said Tuesday, raising the alarm on waste littering the country's waters and forests.
The Southeast Asian country is one of the world's largest consumers of plastic, with Thais using up to 3,000 single-use plastic bags each per year, whether for wrapping street food, takeaway coffee or packing groceries.
Marine animals like turtles and dugongs have died in its waste-choked waters, and autopsies have found that plastic in the stomach lining contributed to their deaths.
Now the scourge of plastic waste is affecting Thailand's animals on land.
Officials said a 10-year-old deer was found dead in a national park in Nan province, around 630 kilometres (390 miles) north of capital Bangkok.
An autopsy discovered "plastic bags in the stomach, which is one of the causes of his death", said Kriangsak Thanompun, director of the protected region in the Khun Sathan National Park.
The bags contained coffee grounds, instant noodle packaging, garbage bags, towels and also underwear, according to photos provided by the national park.
The discovery of the deer comes months after a sick baby dugong won hearts in Thailand as she fought for recovery, only to pass away from an infection exacerbated by plastic bits lining her stomach.
The demise of Mariam in August was widely mourned on social media, reviving public debate on Thailand's urgent need to tackle its plastic addiction.
The loss of the wild deer is "another tragedy", Kriangsak said.
"It shows we have to take seriously and reduce... single-use plastic," he said, calling for "nature-friendly products" to be used instead.
Several major retailers - including the operator of the ubiquitous 7-Eleven convenience stores - have pledged to stop handing out single-use plastic bags by January next year.