A British ecologist and ornithologist out for a walk stumbled across a rare sighting that has nature lovers across the world talking. He spotted a beluga whale swimming in the Thames. Dave Andrews captured footage of the white whale in the river near Gravesend, Kent.
Taking to Twitter, Andrews shared the video, writing: “Can’t believe I’m writing this, no joke — BELUGA in the Thames off Coalhouse Fort.”
— Dave Andrews (@iPterodroma) September 25, 2018
A few hours after sharing the news, photographers were lining up on the banks of the Thames to catch a glimpse themselves.
“If this animal is a beluga whale, it is very far from home,” London’s Natural History Museum wrote on Twitter.
Belugas are friendly, sociable whales that live in family groups and are an Arctic species rarely seen in the UK but much further north.
As amazing as it is to see a beluga so far from home conservationists and some animal lovers are concerned. “Worrying yet extraordinary!” wrote one concerned person. “Magnificent sight, but surely something is not quite right. Experts please ensure its safety,” wrote another.
Sarah Dolman a senior policy officer with Whale and Dolphin Conservation is asking for people to give the whale space and tweeted “Probably not good that this beluga is in the Thames. Please give the whale space!”
The whale could become extremely stressed and even more vulnerable if people get too close to it. Researchers believe the whale may have become lost from its family during a storm. The RSPCA and other agencies are monitoring the situation.
British Divers Marine Life Rescue, which helps save marine animals in distress in UK waters, has sent a specialist vet to the Kent town to monitor the whale’s movements.
Julia Cable, the charity’s national coordinator, told the Guardian, “It is swimming strongly and appears to be feeding, so there is no indication that it unwell or acting strangely. We are not particularly concerned about its welfare apart from the fact that it really shouldn’t be there… We are hoping it is not going to get in any trouble.”
Conservationists are hoping the whale makes its way out of the Thames and back home to the Arctic.
“We are working with other agencies to monitor the situation and ready to provide appropriate assistance if requested.”