Animal that went viral for hugging its helpers dies, loads of plastic found in her stomach

PHOTO: Mariam the dugong is cared for by park officials and veterinarians from the Phuket Marine Biological Centre on Libong island in this photo released July 3, 2019. The orphaned baby dugong was rescued off a beach in Krabi Province, Thailand.PlaySirachai Arunrugstichai/AFP/Getty Images
WATCH Marium the viral Dugong dies after ingesting plastic

One of the latest possible victims of ocean pollution appears to be Marium, the loveable manatee-like animal that captured the hearts of Thailand and the internet.

Marium was the name given to an 8-month-old dugong, a species of marine mammal found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The World Wildlife Foundation reports that dugongs are cousins of manatees, but don't swim in freshwater areas. Instead the "sea cows" graze in shallow coastal waters.

She earned widespread popularity after pictures were shared of her appearing to hug biologists who were helping feeding her.

PHOTO: An official of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources feeds sea-grass spread to Marium, the baby dugong lost from her mom in Libong island, Trang province southern Thailand, May 23, 2019. Sirachai Arunrugstichai/AP, FILE
An official of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources feeds sea-grass spread to Marium, the baby dugong lost from her mom in Libong island, Trang province southern Thailand, May 23, 2019.

Marium was being cared for by scientists after being found lost near a beach in southern Thailand, according the the Associated Press.

PHOTO: Mariam the dugong is cared for by park officials and veterinarians from the Phuket Marine Biological Centre on Libong island in this photo released July 3, 2019. The orphaned baby dugong was rescued off a beach in Krabi Province, Thailand. Sirachai Arunrugstichai/AFP/Getty Images
Mariam the dugong is cared for by park officials and veterinarians from the Phuket Marine Biological Centre on Libong island in this photo released July 3, 2019. The orphaned baby dugong was rescued off a beach in Krabi Province, Thailand.

They were the ones who found her bruised last week, the AP reported. The bruises were attributed to aggressive male dugongs who were overly physical during mating season, but another possible factor in her subsequent death was less natural.

"We assume she wandered off too far from her natural habitat and was chased and eventually attacked by another male dugong, or dugongs, as they feel attracted to her," Jatuporn Buruspat, director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, said on Saturday, according to the AP.

PHOTO: Marium the baby dugong Sirachai Arunrugstichai/AP, FILE
Marium the baby dugong

However, an autopsy also showed significant amounts of plastic waste in her intestine which Jatuporn said led to a blood infection and gastritis.

"She must have thought these plastics were edible," he said, according to the AP.

"Her death will remind Thais and people all over the world not to dispose trash into the oceans," Jatuporn said.

PHOTO: Pieces of plastic that were found in the intestinal tract of Mariam the dugong after she died at the Trang province marine park in a photo taken, Aug. 17, 2019. DNP via AFP/Getty Images
Pieces of plastic that were found in the intestinal tract of Mariam the dugong after she died at the Trang province marine park in a photo taken, Aug. 17, 2019.