Beluga whale spotted again in the River Thames

The Beluga whale stuck in the River Thames has been spotted again this morning – over twelve hours since it was last seen.

The rare marine mammal, nicknamed Benny, has resurfaced on the Gravesend side of the Thames.

It was first spotted by ecologist Dave Andrews "swimming strongly" between Gravesend in Kent and Tilbury in Essex, yesterday afternoon.

There were no sightings over night and some experts had hoped the animal had made its way back to the open ocean.

The whale was last seen at 8.30pm, according to the Port of London Authority.

There was no glimpse of it until 9.30 am this morning.

This morning the Marine Policing Unit issued a fresh warning to the public to stay away from the mammal.

They tweeted: "Amazing sighting of a beluga whale in the Thames. We do urge that people keep a respectful distance from it so it doesn’t become distressed."

Today fears are mounting for the whale which is normally found thousands of miles away in the Atlantic.

Experts warn the marine mammal may swim further inland and beach itself – particularly when the tide is out in the estuary this morning.

There are also fears the whale could put itself in more danger if it moves further inland.

Mr Andrews told the Telegraph he worries the whale will do just that.

He said: "It’s not really an open ocean whale.

"People keep saying they hope it swims out, but in reality, it’s where it should be habitat-wise – just 1,500 miles too far south."

Rob Lott, a marine mammal scientist at Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), said the cetacean was being monitored in case it "live strands" on a sandbank.

"It’s a monitoring operation at the moment, obviously the longer it stays in the Thames estuary then it will become more of a concern, so we’ll see what happens in the morning," he told BBC Radio 5Live.

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Beluga whales can grow up to 20ft in length and are usually at home in the icy waters around Greenland, Svalbard or the Barents Sea.

They are also a social species, so to see one by itself in the Thames is "concerning", Mr Lott said.

"Hopefully instinct will soon kick in and the beluga will leave the estuary and go out into the north sea and then head north where it should be," the scientist explained.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue said it was sending its area coordinator down to the river to monitor the situation.

The network of volunteer "marine mammal medics" has whale rescue pontoons at the ready that can be used to re-float stranded animals in an effort to move them to safety.

A spokeswoman for the organisation said the beluga’s visit to the Thames 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.

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