Experts keep watch on beluga whale spotted off Gravesend

ANALYSISSeptember 26 2018 9:32am The Times Underwater noise may have sent beluga whale off course Ben Webster Oceans Correspondent

Beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) normally live in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters, so any beluga in the Thames would be a long way from home.

A spokeswoman for the organisation said it 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.

Tanya Ferry, environment manager at the Port of London Authority which is monitoring the whale, said it was unclear what the whale could eat.

He added that the whale had been feeding around the barges across the Thames near Gravesend in Kent for around an hour and had not moved more than 200 meters.

"We do have quite a lot of plastic bags, which could be quite an issue", she said.

Lucy Babey, head of science at Orca, a marine conservation charity, said: "This is the most southerly recording of a beluga in the UK".

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It said it is ready to provide help to the whale if asked to do so by other agencies.

The RSPCA animal welfare group said that it's "working with other agencies to monitor the situation" and sent researchers to the scene.

There are occasional reports of belugas off the British coast, though very rarely this far south.

A bottle-nosed whale became stranded in the Thames for two days in 2006, but died from convulsions as it was being rescued. They are known for their bulbous forehead, known as a "melon", which allows them to make various facial expressions due to its flexibility.

This sea creature made a whale of a trip.

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