Published: Fri, September 28, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

'Beluga whale' spotted in the Thames off Gravesend

'Beluga whale' spotted in the Thames off Gravesend

A beluga whale spotted in the River Thames estuary outside London -- far from its natural Arctic habitat - is "swimming strongly and feeding normally", Britain's main animal protection charity said on Wednesday.

The last sighting of Beluga whales in United Kingdom waters was in 2015 when they were spotted off northeastern England near the Northumberland coastline, but they left shortly afterwards.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society said it was "obviously very lost and quite possibly in trouble".

"We are working with other agencies to monitor the situation and ready to provide appropriate assistance if requested".

A spokeswoman said the beluga's visit to the Thames was a "very rare occurrence", and urged people not to go out in boats to get a close look at the whale, but to watch it from the shore.

In 2006, a northern bottle-nosed whale died after stranding itself in the Thames.

The RSPCA said it was aware of reports of a whale in the Thames.

The Thames remains a busy waterway and the whale is now between two major container docks, Tilbury and the new London Gateway port.

According to National Geographic magazine, beluga whales can range from 13 to 20 feet in length. They are known for their bulbous forehead, known as a "melon", which allows them to make various facial expressions due to its flexibility. They are known for living long lives and are typically found further north, in Arctic waters.

Belugas live in estuaries, continental shelves and slopes, and deep ocean basins in open water, loose ice, and heavy pack ice. Others expressed concern for the creature, while more still just made jokes.

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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