River Thames whale: Young minke that became stranded is put down

10 May 2021, 22:04 | Updated: 10 May 2021, 22:13

Lifeboat workers attempt to help the young whale
Lifeboat workers attempt to help the young whale. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A young minke whale that became stranded in the River Thames has been put down.

The animal became stranded for a second time at Teddington Lock on Monday after it became stuck in Richmond Lock and Weir's boat rollers on Sunday.

Hundreds gathered on the banks of the Thames in south-west London to catch a glimpse of the whale.

READ MORE: Stranded whale in the Thames freed after rescue operation

The decision was made to put it to sleep due to its "deteriorating condition".

Julia Cable, national co-ordinator at the British Divers Marine Life Rescue service, said: "The last 45 minutes we were with the whale its condition was deteriorating, its breathing wasn't right and it wouldn't have survived much longer.

"The vets said it was clearly suffering and that it was the right decision."

The whale was put down due to its "deteriorating condition"
The whale was put down due to its "deteriorating condition". Picture: PA

Ms Cable said vets from London Zoo injected a "large" anaesthetic dose at about 6.30pm.

She added: "It's always sad, but we now know that putting it back out into the open sea would have been sending it to starve out there."

She said the whale had been either still "maternally dependent" or recently weaned, based on its size.

"It will be socially dependent, so to be on its own something has happened."

Hundreds gathered on the banks of the Thames to catch a glimpse of the animal
Hundreds gathered on the banks of the Thames to catch a glimpse of the animal. Picture: PA

"It has been separated from either its mother or a group," she added.

"It's in a nutritionally poor state, it's also got injuries from stranding.

"We know it was stranded for five or seven hours yesterday, so all the time that happens the organs can get damaged as well."

On Sunday, videos showed the animal being hosed down by a man believed to be from the Port of London Authority, while a vet performed a check-up at the river's edge.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute arrived at the scene to the cheers of onlookers at about 9pm.

The whale, thought to be between 10 and 13ft long, was found to be in poor health and was put on pontoons to make it more comfortable on Sunday night as it was decided then that it should be put to sleep.

"It actually managed to get free of the pontoons unfortunately and back into the river," Dan Jarvis, welfare development and field support officer at the British Divers Marine Life Rescue service, said.

Pictures showed passers-by and photographers lining the river on Monday afternoon, with the whale clearly visible in the water.

The whale was put on pontoons on Sunday but managed to get free and back into the river
The whale was put on pontoons on Sunday but managed to get free and back into the river. Picture: PA

Ms Cable said whales tend to appear in the Thames every year, although live strandings are rare.

She said: "We started off with beluga, then there was a humpback and then there was another Minke, then a fin whale turned up.

"But this is the first in recent years of a live stranding.

"It's not common and hopefully we won't see it again for a while."

Minke whales are the smallest of the great whales, growing to about 33ft.

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.