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Minke whale lost in River Thames to be euthanized, officials say

A young minke whale that has spent a couple of days trapped in the River Thames in London is facing euthanization as its condition weakens.

First spotted on Sunday, rescuers worked throughout the night to rescue the young whale, only for the animal to slip away and swim further up the river. Due to the lengthy 95-mile trek up the Thames, rescuers said they doubt the whale could make it back to the ocean even if it were to reorient itself to a return trip.

As of Monday evening, rescuers were continuing efforts to recapture the animal by 5 p.m. local time in an effort to beat lowering tides, which will strand the whale.

“Once the whale is beached a veterinary team will be on standby to euthanize the animal to end its suffering,” the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said in a statement.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Lifeboat workers attempt to assist a stranded young Minke whale on the River Thames near Teddington Lock, in London, Monday, May 10, 2021. A Port of London Authority spokesperson said a whale had never been seen this far up the Thames before, 95 miles from its mouth. The whale had been freed on Sunday after it became stuck at Richmond lock but has remained in the Thames.
Alberto Pezzali/Associated Press

Crews had already worked for hours before being able to free the whale early Monday from a perilous stranding on a lock near Richmond, a few miles downstream of Teddington.

“This animal is very, very lost,” Port of London Authority spokesman Martin Garside said. “It’s like seeing a camel at the North Pole.”

The whale, which measured about four meters (13 feet) long, was first seen lying on the lock’s boat rollers Sunday night. Hundreds of people gathered along the banks of the Thames to watch the rescue operation as night fell. The area is known for wide tidal swings that easily reach over 5.5 meters (18 feet) high.

Port staff were joined by firefighters, coast guard members and marine animal rescue divers.

Minke whales, which are more typically found in the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, can grow to a size of nine meters (30 feet).

Meanwhile, in Spain, a marine wildlife group was working to make sure that a gray whale found near Spain’s northeastern Mediterranean coast, far from its usual northern Pacific migration routes, doesn’t get stranded.

Maritime rescuers, firefighters and other authorities worked with conservationists over the weekend to keep a whale nicknamed Wally from venturing into shallow water and ports near Barcelona.

The maritime group said the whale entered the Mediterranean Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar and has been spotted since March in the vicinity of Morocco, Algeria, Italy and France.

In an aerial video released by the group, the whale could be seen very close to a seawall near one of Barcelona’s main beaches.

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