Masks have been vital in protecting people from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic across the world. However, the virus is also proving to be a deadly hazard for wildlife.
Single-use surgical masks have been found discarded around pavements, waterways, and beaches worldwide since many countries began to mandate its use in public places to stop the spread of the virus.
After months under lockdown, many of those single-use surgical masks have found its way to wildlife, especially to birds and marine animals. It ensnared a number of them, and continues to endanger their lives.
“Face masks aren’t going away any time soon – but when we throw them away, these items can harm the environment and the animals who share our planet,” Ashley Fruno from animal rights People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Macaques were found chewing straps off used masks in the hills outside Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. A gull whose legs got tangled in straps of disposable mask was also rescued by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
“It’s clear the mask was there for some time and the elastic straps had tightened around his legs as his joints were swollen and sore,” said RSPCA inspector Adam Jones.
More than 1.5 billion masks went into the world’s oceans last year, which accounts for around 6,200 extra tonnes of marine plastic pollution, according to environmental group OceansAsia.
Wildlife conservationists and campaigners are urging people to dispose used masks correctly, and snip the straps to reduce the risk of animals becomiung ensnared.
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