The discovery of a dead crocodile at Bhitarkanika National Park in India was only the latest sign of a longtime plastic problem.
The New Indian Express reported in November 2022 that the death of the 17-foot behemoth marked the ninth unnatural crocodile death at the park in 27 months. Thirty-two crocodiles have died unnaturally there in the span of 10 years.
“Crocodiles are unable to distinguish between food and plastic,” Hemant Rout, the secretary of Gahirmatha Marine Turtles and Mangrove Conservation Society, told The New Indian Express. “The reptiles frequently consume plastic waste, which they are unable to digest or excrete. The waste accumulating in their stomach often clogs their digestive tracts, ultimately leading to death.”
Rout said reducing the use of plastic in villages around the park was key to fixing the problem.
Reusable water bottles are one of the best ways to avoid plastic, which can “alter habitats and natural processes, reducing ecosystems’ ability to adapt to climate change, directly affecting millions of people’s livelihoods, food production capabilities and social well-being,” according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
You can also save $1,300 per year by drinking tap water instead of water from plastic bottles.
India’s plastic problem may be more a matter of disposal than consumption.
Le Monde reported in May that the country’s 1.4 billion people annually use only about one-sixth as much plastic per capita (11 kilograms or about 24 pounds) as Europeans (65 kilograms, about 143 pounds) and one-tenth that of Americans (109 kilograms, about 240 pounds).
“The majority of this waste comes from single-use plastics,” Carole Dieterich wrote for the outlet, noting cows and dogs “devour plastic” every day. “It can be found on roadsides, in rivers and oceans, clogging drains, and piling up in landfills.”
The crocodiles at Bhitarkanika National Park were nearly extinct in the mid-1970s, numbering just 95, according to RoundGlass Sustain, but that figure had climbed to 1,784 as of January 2022 — accounting for 70% of India’s saltwater crocodile population.
Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.