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Rangers issue dire warning after disturbing encounters with wildlife: 'A real kick in the guts'

"Unfortunately we're seeing this more and more."

"Unfortunately we’re seeing this more and more."

Photo Credit: iStock

Wildlife organizations in New Zealand have collected a series of images demonstrating the consequences of plastic and fishing pollution in coastal areas.

What happened?

The New Zealand Department of Conservation issued a blog post reminding citizens that while the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere are a chance to enjoy the outdoors, cleaning up after yourself is essential for the protection of animals.

Rangers from the Otago Coastal team had enough photos to submit a full slideshow for the Department of Conservation's campaign, but even a choice selection was enough to show the devastating impact of waste and fishing pollution on seals and sea lions. Elsewhere, birds and fish were also captured in troubling situations due to discarded trash.

"Over summer, though, we can sometimes let this care-FREE vibe turn into a care-LESS one, and unfortunately we're seeing this more and more, in the form of rubbish popping up in all the wrong places," the blog post read. "A real kick in the guts."

Why is littering concerning?

The images of netting and plastics wrapped around the necks of seals and sea lions are really heartbreaking, with the creatures clearly in pain or distress.

Photo Credit: New Zealand Department of Conservation
Photo Credit: New Zealand Department of Conservation

The rangers said many of the animals they found were in poor health because they could not feed normally, and while the rangers freed many from their binds, there's no way to know if the animals returned to full health once released.

It's not just seals and sea lions that have been affected. Sea birds on the Otago Coast have also been eating plastic, which remains in the animals' stomachs and stops them from eating properly. One image showed bits of plastic that had been regurgitated by a chick.

Meanwhile, the Department of Conservation showed a picture of a kea (a species of large parrot) found in Glenorchy with a rope tied around its foot, as well as a duck that had a plastic ring around its neck and stuck in its bill.

One final picture saw a deceased rig (also known as a lemon shark) that got stuck in a plastic ring that covered its gills. 

What can be done to stop animals from being harmed by pollution?

The easiest way to prevent harm to coastal animals is to simply clean up after yourself. At the beach, it's easy for the wind to pick up trash that enters the water, where it can be consumed by a range of creatures. Meanwhile, trash on the sand can wash away when the tide comes in. 

Avoiding single-use plastics is the best way to limit the waste we produce on a daily basis. Simple changes like buying a reusable water bottle or swapping plastic wrapping for paper or cloth can make a real difference. 

But the fishing industry also needs to be held accountable for discarded equipment, which is likely what led to the seals and sea lions getting tangled up. 

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