Hopes fade for minke whale stranded in River Thames


Hopes of saving the small whale that has become stranded along the River Thames for a second time are running out.

Hundreds of people had gathered at Richmond lock and weir in south-west London on Sunday after the whale, a minke between three and four metres long, became stuck on the lock’s boat rollers.

Videos showed it being hosed down by a man believed to be a Port of London authority (PLA) employee while a vet performed a checkup at the river’s edge, before the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) arrived at about 9pm. Fire crews were also at the scene, along with the British Divers Marine Life Rescue service.

Footage showed the whale finally being freed at about 1am, but it was spotted near Teddington lock just after 10.20am, heading downstream towards Chiswick and back towards Richmond.

Julia Cable, the national co-ordinator of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue service, said the whale was now completely stationary in the water up against a wall in the area of Teddington lock.

She told PA Media the whale was “as good as stranded”, adding: “It’s not really going to come down to a rescue now.

“Its condition is deteriorating. It’s not acting the way it did last night. It’s basically lost any energy that it had left in it. It’s also got another stranding injury, which, along with ones from yesterday, all adds up really.

“We’re just going to make it a little bit more comfortable and we’re going to have a veterinarian come down and take another look at it, and then they’ll make a decision. It’s not looking like we’ll be able to refloat the animal.”

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Whale freed after being stranded at lock along River Thames in London - video

It is believed the whale was first spotted at midday on Sunday a few miles up the river near Barnes Bridge.

A spokesperson for the RNLI said: “Chiswick’s RNLI crew were tasked by London coastguard at 8pm on Sunday 9 May and worked with the fire rescue service, police and British Divers Marine Life Rescue to try to free the whale.

“Together they managed to free it and were taking it to a deeper part of the river when it swam away. The whale was displaying concerning behaviours and experts in attendance were concerned that it may be unwell.”

Minke whales are the smallest of the great whales, growing to about 10 metres.

They can usually be found throughout the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Their range extends from the ice edge in the Arctic during the summer to near the equator during winter.


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