KOTA KINABALU - Plastic bags appear to have killed the Risso's dolphin that was found in a weakened state in shallow waters at Likas Bay here nearly two weeks ago.
The dolphin died on Wednesday while being cared for at the Borneo Marine Research Unit Institute at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).
A post-mortem on the marine mammal revealed that its intestinal tract was filled with plastic bags, a researcher said.
UMS officials are scheduled to announce the death of the dolphin and its causes today.
The researcher said it showed that the dolphin might have mistaken plastic bags floating in the sea for jellyfish, which is part of its diet.
This, he added, was the result of the widespread problem of plastic bags being thrown into the sea.
Other marine creatures such as turtles have also been reportedly found dead with plastic bags in their digestive system.
According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, there is an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean with the debris covering an area as large as the United States and India combined.
Marine researchers had initially assumed that the dolphin was suffering from a chronic bacterial, virus or parasitic infection.
The dolphin died despite being treated with a cocktail of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication, appetite stimulants and multi-vitamins.
The Risso's dolphin, which mainly lives in warm, tropical waters, is not considered endangered.