Beluga whale 'spotted in River Thames' near Gravesend

Theresa Obrien
September 26, 2018

Yes, a beluga whale was spotted splashing around in Britain's River Thames, and Brits can't quite believe it.

However rescue teams were on standby in case the animal, which is normally found thousands of miles away in the Arctic, gets into danger.

Known as the "canary of the sea" due to their chirps, clicks and whistles, beluga whales can range from 13 ft to 20 ft in length and have distinctive round foreheads, known as "melons".

Richard Sabin, principal curator of mammals at the Natural History Museum, said photos and videos he had seen appeared to show a beluga whale.

"Beluga whales are a species of the icy Arctic - finding one in the tepid Thames is an astonishingly rare event", said Rod Downie, polar chief adviser at WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation society said the whale could be ill, or young and separated from his or her pod.

Whale watchers have flocked to the banks of the Thames to try and spot the mammal.

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After British Divers Marine Life Rescue were alerted, they confirmed the sighting, noting that the whale seemed to be "swimming strongly".

The last reported sighting of beluga in United Kingdom waters was in 2015, when two were spotted off the Northumberland coast and one in Northern Ireland.

"We would urge that the whale is given space and disturbance is kept to a minimum".

In 2006, a whale died after it swam up the river into central London despite rescue efforts.

They range from 13ft (3.9m) to 20ft (6.1m) in length and have distinctive rounded foreheads.

Belugas are able to produce sounds such as chirps, clicks, whistles and squeals, giving them the nickname "the canary of the sea".

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