Rescue teams are preparing to take urgent action to move the lost Thames beluga whale in case it gets beached.
The mammal was first spotted on Tuesday “feeding and swimming” near barges in the Thames Estuary between Gravesend in the south and Coalhouse Fort on the north bank. It had yet to appear this morning but experts from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) Unit inspected it from a boat yesterday, and said it did not appear distressed.
However, they are also working “behind the scenes” to secure emergency permits from the Government’s Marine Management Organisation to protect the creature in the event it becomes grounded.
In a worst-case scenario, the beached cetacean would be encased in a “whale pontoon”, like a large lifejacket, and “refloated” at high tide.
Teri Charlton, charity administrator for the BDMLR, said: “There’s plenty of food here for it and it doesn’t appear to be distressed or getting weaker. But the Thames water is a lot warmer than it should be in. And while we want to give it the opportunity to leave on its own accord, there’s also a long process going on behind the scenes.
“It’s also illegal to start messing with healthy animals, which could stress the animal out and change the whole situation, causing it to strand itself and get hurt.”
Boats were being urged to keep clear, and the public has been asked not to take to the water to watch it. The Port of London Authority has been keeping craft away from where the whale has surfaced, around barges where it has been feeding.
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