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'Incredibly unusual sighting': Concerns for beluga whale lost in river Thames

The whale, which would normally be found in the Arctic, was first spotted yesterday.

Gravesend - File Image
Gravesend - File Image
Image: Google Streetview

A BELUGA WHALE, lost in the River Thames, has been sighted again today. 

The whale was first spotted east of London yesterday near Gravesend, Kent and was spotted again this morning.

It’s unclear how the marine mammal, which is usually found in the Arctic, ended up in UK waters. 

Speaking to Sky News, Julia Cable, national coordinator for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, said:

It’s possible that it lost its way after a navigational error, that it has taken a wrong turn. We haven’t got an idea about the health of the animal.

Far From Home

The whale was first spotted by ecologist Dave Andrews who posted a video on Twitter of the whale yesterday.

Conservationists are hoping to assess the animal’s condition. The RSPCA has confirmed this morning’s sighting.

(Can’t see this video? Click here.)

RSPCA spokeswoman Clare Dew told the BBC: “We don’t have any concerns about the whale itself at the moment and it is certainly still behaving normally.

“It has moved further down the Thames out towards the estuary which is a good sign,” she said.

“It appears to be feeding normally – it is not attempting to come anywhere near the banks and it is staying in the deep channel in the middle of the river.”

Belugas are a distinctive species with flexible necks and no dorsal fin.

They measure between 13 and 20 feet in length, can live up to 50 years in the wild and are one of the “most familiar and easily distinguishable of all the whales,” according to National Geographic

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Belugas are common to Alaska, Russia, Canada, and Greenland. In 2015, a beluga whale was spotted off the coast of Antrim, Northern Ireland. 

In 2006, a bottle-nosed whale died after it became stranded in the River Thames. 

Lucy Babey, head of science and conservation at marine conservation charity Orca, said: “It’s an incredibly unusual sighting, with the most recent record of belugas around the UK being in Northumberland in 2015.

Considering how far the animal is from it’s range, it may be distressed and so it is vital that onlookers both on land and at sea keep their distance.

The Environment Agency has said that it is not planning to close the Thames barrier which would prevent the whale from swimming further up the Thames.  

Gravesend is located about 28 miles east of London City. 

The Charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation has also urged people to give the beluga whale space. Belugas are known for swimming up river in shallow waters, said a charity spokesperson. But not this far south and “never all alone”.

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