face mask penguin
A dead Magellanic penguin lies on a gravel beach on Patagonian Argentina's Valdes Peninsula.

Littered Face Mask Found In Dead Penguin’s Stomach, 2020 You’re an Inconsiderate Prick

If 2020 had a symbol, it would be a discarded face mask. Surely by now you’ve seen a few face masks lying limp on the sidewalk and thought, “If it weren’t garbage, it’d kind of look like a modern piece of art.” Well, there’s nothing pretty about where one of those littered face masks ended up – in a dead penguin’s stomach.

Yes, coronavirus has killed yet another thing we adore. A dead Magellanic penguin washed up on Juqueí beach in São Paulo, Brazil, earlier this month and an autopsy revealed it had a face mask in its stomach.

“This case is unequivocal proof that this type of waste causes harm and mortality also in marine fauna, in addition to the irresponsibility of the person who dispenses a mask in an inappropriate place,” Hugo Gallo Neto, the president of Instituto Argonauta, said in a statement. “We have been working with marine litter for 23 years, always trying to educate and rehabilitate animals that have problems. This is a new threat that unfortunately came with the pandemic.”

The mask was likely left behind following celebrations for Brazil’s Independence Day, which drew large (COVID-19-spreading) crowds to the area. Since mid-April, at least 113 face masks were tossed on various São Paulo beaches. Sadly, the malnourished penguin likely thought it was food and ate it. Whether or not the mask was the cause of its death is unclear.

Remember when plastic six-pack rings killed over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals every year in the ‘80s? No? Well, they did, and face masks could do just as much damage. We will be defined by the refuse we leave behind and this year, that’s face masks. Do the Earth and all its creatures a favor and throw face masks away – in a garbage can for chrissakes – when you’re through with yours.

Rest in peace, little penguin. Sorry humans – and 2020 – are such inconsiderate pricks.

Cover Photo: Theo Allofs (Getty Images)

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