Friday, January 20, 2006

1 Northern Bottle-nosed Whale stranded in London, UK

Whale spotted in central London
BBC News
Published: 2006/01/20 18:17:22 GMT

A seven-tonne whale has made its way up the Thames to central London, where it is being watched by riverside crowds.
The 16-18ft (5m) northern bottle-nosed whale, which is usually found in deep sea waters, has been seen as far upstream as Chelsea.

A rescue boat has been sent to protect the whale and rescuers have been trying to keep it away from the river banks.
Specialist equipment, including inflatable tubes to re-direct the animal downstream, are being sent.

The whale has come within yards of the banks and has crashed into an empty boat causing slight bleeding.

The last thing we want to do is stress the animal out
Liz Sandeman
Marine Connection


Vets are remaining on standby and experts have said it does not appear to be ill, but are concerned it will get weaker and may become beached.
Tony Woodley, of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, which will be handling the rescue, said the animal's welfare was the main priority.
He said if attempts to re-direct the whale downstream failed, it might be necessary to put it down to prevent from suffering further.

'Breathing normally'
The RNLI say it is the first whale rescue on the Thames. A spokesman said three whales were spotted east of the Thames Barrier on Thursday but only one managed to get upstream.
But at 0830 GMT on Friday, a man on a train called in to say he might have been hallucinating, but he had just seen a whale in the Thames.

Alison Shaw of the Marine and Freshwater Conservation Programme at London Zoo, said the northern bottle-nosed whale was usually found in groups of three to 10.
She told the BBC News website: "This is extremely rare in British waters as they are normally found in deep waters in the North Atlantic.

"It is about 16-18ft long, so is relatively mature. It is a very long way from home and we don't know why it has ended up here."
The whales usually weigh about seven tonnes, which will complicate any rescue attempt, experts said.

London Aquarium Curator Paul Hale told the BBC: "Getting that to do anything it doesn't want to do is going to be extremely difficult.
"This is a very active swimming animal and it's not going to go anywhere it doesn't want to go so we have to persuade it to swim back out."
Liz Sandeman, a medic of the Marine Connection, a whale and dolphin protection charity, accompanied the RNLI to examine the animal.

She feared it might be in danger from other boats, or be frightened by the noise.
"The last thing we want to do is stress the animal out," she said.
Over the years dolphins and seals have been spotted in the Thames.
Sperm whales have been seen in the Thames Estuary and porpoises have feasted on fish near Vauxhall Bridge, in central London.

Hyperoodon ampullatus
Adult length: 7-10m (23-33ft)
Weight: 5.8-7.5 tonnes
Diet: Squid, fish
Habitat: Deep offshore waters
Range: Arctic and North Atlantic
Status: Lower risk, conservation dependent, protected since 1977
Distinctive feature: Bulbous forehead



Rescuers ready for Thames whale
Published: 2006/01/20 17:24:28 GMT

Rescuers are planning how to help a whale that has been swimming in the Thames as far west as Chelsea.
The northern bottle-nosed whale, not seen in the Thames for almost 100 years, has floundered in shallow water and looked to be bleeding at times.

Experts said heavy-lifting equipment might be needed if the whale beached when the tide turned.
However, they would give it a full health check before they decided whether to move it.

They have warned that it was likely to be ill as well as disorientated and may not survive the ordeal.

I am afraid I think people have got to prepare themselves that this animal may well not survive
Mark Simmonds
Whale and Dolphin Society


The Whale and Dolphin Society's Mark Simmonds said a rescue effort would be difficult.
"This is a very, very big whale to start manoeuvring around and lots of help and maybe even heavy lifting gear may be required.
"But they won't go to that point if they're not happy that the whale is healthy enough to be responded to in that way."
He warned that the animal may die.

"The prognosis is poor for this animal and the chances are that it is wounded, or distressed, or sick.
"So I am afraid I think people have got to prepare themselves that this animal may well not survive.''

A flotilla of four boats has been around the whale during Friday to protect it from other shipping.
Tony Woodley, from the British Divers Association, said he was concerned as the whale was a deep sea species not used to shallow water.
The association had volunteers trained to deal with whale strandings and a rescue boat at the ready.
Although he said the appearance of blood in the water might not be as serious as it looked, he also warned that the whale might not survive the ordeal.
The animal's delicate skin which is prone to abrasions, combined with "very red blood", made even a very small injury produce a large amount of blood, "and it could look possibly worse than it actually is" Mr Woodley said.

Options
Two options available were refloating the whale back to deep water, which he described as very tricky, or putting it down.
"The other option is if the vet is of the opinion that the animal isn't going to survive...that we would actually put it down.''
The size of the animal would make any rescue difficult.

The curator of London Aquarium, Paul Hale, said: "This is a very active swimming animal and it's not going to go anywhere it doesn't want to go so we have to persuade it to swim back out.
"I think it's going to be a tricky time for the guys that are dealing with it."
The Zoological Society of London sent its marine mammal veterinary pathologist, Paul Jepson, to the banks of the Thames to assist with the rescue.



Thames whale amazes and intrigues
By Alex Kleiderman
BBC News

Published: 2006/01/21 11:21:13 GMT

The rare sight of a whale in the Thames in central London brought crowds - and the world's media - out to the banks of the river.
Hundreds of onlookers watched in wonder as the northern bottle-nosed whale, an endangered species, swam in the river on Friday.

"I've never seen a whale before and never thought I'd see one on the Thames," said David Bracegirdle.
The art tutor, who spent several hours taking pictures, said it was "impressive" but he was concerned for the animal's safety.

The crowds continued to gather as the 16-18ft (5m) long whale swam past the landmark of the Houses of Parliament to Albert Bridge in Chelsea, followed by rescuers in boats.

Cheers
As news of the unusual sighting spread more than 300 people lined the banks of the Thames to get their glimpse of the mammal in what it is believed to be the first such sighting in a century.
As the whale surfaced every four or five minutes, spouting water from its blowhole, cameras clicked and cheers went up.

Accountant Shameen Khan was on a shopping trip on New Bond Street when she got a call from her friend telling her a whale - her favourite animal - had been spotted in the river near to his Chelsea home.
"I thought I should go and see it but I then got in a taxi and was heading somewhere else," she said.
"I then thought, 'You just live your life. You've got to come and see that whale'."


I have never seen a whale before. It's not something that happens too often in London.
Louise Keen



Louise Keen took an extended lunch break to follow the whale's journey from central London on her bike, stopping at the bridges along the way to get a better view.
The medical school administrator said: "I heard about it on the news when it was at Westminster Bridge and thought I'd go to see if I could head it off.
"It nearly got beached at Albert Bridge and a guy jumped in the water and had to push it back out.
"He got people to clap and stamp on the bridge to encourage it."
Ms Keen added: "I have never seen a whale before. It's not something that happens too often in London."

'Particularly bizarre'
Builders working on plush riverside apartments by Chelsea Embankment downed tools and peered over scaffolding to get a birds eye view of the event.
Carpenter Richard Howart was down at the riverside.
"I thought I'd come down and have a look," he said. "I've seen it come up, popping up for air.
"I've seen whales in sea life exhibits in Florida but never anything like this."
But even those who have experienced whales in the wild could not help being impressed by the Thames whale.

Vincent Petersen said he found the situation "particularly bizarre".
"In November I was out in New Zealand to do some whale watching among other things.
"We saw a couple of whales there but never got as good a view as of the one I've seen in London," he said.




Fears for health of Thames whale
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/england/london/4633878.stm

Published: 2006/01/21 17:59:20 GMT

The condition of a whale stranded in the River Thames has worsened which has scuppered plans for it to be released into the open sea.
The 18ft (5m) northern bottle-nosed whale was placed in a special pontoon in shallow water near Battersea Bridge.

It was then tethered close to two boats and towed to a barge which is heading for the river estuary.
Experts hoped it could be let out into deep waters but the plan now is to release it off Whitstable in Kent.

If the whale is too weak experts may take the decision to put it down.
Tony Woodley from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), which is leading the rescue operation, said the vet on the barge was "pessimistic" about the whale's chances.

The vet had told him the animal was suffering muscle stiffening and was under stress due to what it has gone through and being out of the water.

"The plan was to go round at least to the English Channel before it was released, but now it is just get as far out of the Thames as possible," he said.

"We have the awful trade off of far out we can take it and how long we can keep it out of the water."

A BDMLR spokesman said the barge should reach the a location known as "Shivering Sands" 15 miles off the coast of Whitstable from 2100 GMT to 2130 GMT.

A sighting of the whale on Saturday morning near Albert Bridge, in Chelsea, disappointed rescuers buoyed by an earlier report that it had been seen in Greenwich, which is closer to open water.

But as the rescuers moved the whale applause broke out among the 3,000 onlookers some on Battersea Bridge, which had been closed, as the whale passed beneath.

It is on an inflatable raft which is functioning as "makeshift whale mattress" on which it is being constantly watered down and monitored by experts.

It has been given several injections including antibiotics and earlier a vet on board the barge said the whale's had sustained cuts and its breathing was irregular.

Mark Stevens, from BDMLR, said lifting the animal onto the barge had "gone like clockwork" but it was the "scariest thing I've ever done in rescuing whales".

The whale, which could weigh about four tonnes, was first spotted at 0830 GMT on Friday by a man on a train and has since attracted massive public and media attention.

It soon became clear there was cause for concern, as the animal came within yards of the banks, almost beaching, and crashed into an empty boat, causing itself slight bleeding.

There were reports of a pod of whales in the Thames estuary earlier in the week, and it was possible that the whale had become separated from this group.

There was also an unconfirmed sighting of a whale in Southend in Essex on Friday.

It was the first sighting of the endangered species in the Thames since records began nearly a century ago.

In an unrelated incident, what is thought to be a harbour porpoise was found dead on the banks of the Thames in Putney, south-west London, on Saturday afternoon.


Lost whale dies after rescue bid

BBC News
Saturday, 21 January 2006, 23:45 GMT

A whale that became stranded in the River Thames has died after a massive rescue attempt to save its life.
The 18ft (5m) northern bottle-nosed whale was first spotted in the river on Friday and rescuers began an attempt to save it on Saturday morning.

But the whale died at about 1900 GMT on Saturday as rescuers transported it on a barge towards deeper water in the Thames Estuary.
It was moved after being placed in a special pontoon near Battersea Bridge.

Alan Knight, from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) which led the rescue operation, said the animal died after it began to convulse while it was still on the barge.

See how they harnessed the whale
"It has been a helter skelter ride all the way through. It is a sad end to a very long day," he said.
"Basically this is probably the right thing to happen in the end.
"If it had continued in this way we certainly wouldn't have released it.
"Perhaps this has saved that very difficult decision."

Earlier, close to Battersea Bridge, thousands of onlookers applauded as rescuers placed the whale on to a pontoon to move it from shallow water.
It was winched on to the Port of London Authority barge where it was laid on an inflatable raft functioning as a "makeshift whale mattress".

As the whale was carried upstream towards the estuary a vet administered antibiotics.
Earlier, naturalist and television presenter, Terry Nutkins, said the rescue operation was the wrong thing to do and that the animal needed space.

He told BBC Radio Five Live: "It wouldn't It wouldn't know what was happening, it was surrounded by boats...it would have been absolutely terrified as well as being stressed because it wouldn't be used to noises of propellers or engines.

"It was kept...like a goldfish in a bowl. So, it doesn't surprise me that it's died."
However, he later concluded he had "no doubts" the rescue operation had been the best way to try to save the whale.

Pod spotted
"You can't leave a whale stranded in the Thames and we did the best we could," he added.
The whale, which could weigh about four tonnes, was first spotted at on Friday morning by a man on a train.
There were reports of a pod of whales in the Thames estuary earlier in the week, and it was possible that the whale had become separated from this group.
It was the first sighting of the endangered species in the Thames since records began nearly a century ago.




Dead whale examined by experts
BBC News
Sunday, 22 January 2006, 04:40 GMT

The body of a whale that died after becoming stranded in the River Thames is to be examined by marine experts.
An attempt to transport the 18ft (5m) northern bottle-nosed whale back to deeper water in the Thames Estuary ended on Saturday with its death.

Thousands of onlookers lined the river to watch as the mammal was put on a special pontoon at Battersea Bridge and then onto a barge.

It finally died from natural causes at 1900 GMT after suffering convulsions.

Tony Woodley, of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), said hopes the whale would survive initially rose after it was lifted onto the barge, but it quickly became clear its survival was in doubt.

'Absolutely terrified'
"It is such a shame, and I know that so many people in the UK and around the world have been watching this," he said.
The whale was being taken to Shivering Sands off the north Kent coast, where rescuers had hoped to release it back into the sea.
This plan had already been scaled down from an earlier one to transfer it to an "ocean-going vessel" and take it to deep water off the south coast.

As the whale had been carried upstream towards the estuary a vet administered antibiotics and it was constantly splashed with water and covered with a blanket in a bid to keep it alive.

Earlier, naturalist and television presenter Terry Nutkins said the rescue operation was the wrong thing to do and that the animal needed space.
He told BBC Radio Five Live: "It wouldn't know what was happening, it was surrounded by boats...it would have been absolutely terrified as well as being stressed.

"It was kept...like a goldfish in a bowl. So, it doesn't surprise me that it's died."
However, he later concluded he had "no doubts" the rescue operation had been the best way to try to save the whale.

Pod spotted
The operation is likely to have cost BDMLR up to £100,000.
The whale, which could weigh about four tonnes, was first spotted at on Friday morning.
There were reports of a pod of whales in the Thames estuary earlier in the week, and it was possible the whale had become separated from this group.
It was the first sighting of the endangered species in the Thames since records began nearly a century ago.

Sonar threat to world's whales

Secret naval exercises lead to deaths of thousands of giant mammals worldwide. Stricken whale in Thames dies after dramatic attempt to return it to the ocean

By Geoffrey Lean, Cole Moreton and Jonathan Owen
Published: 22 January 2006

Secret sonar from naval ships is killing thousands of whales around the world and could have disoriented the two-ton mammal that died last night after becoming stranded in the Thames, an investigation by The Independent on Sunday has established.

The northern bottlenose whale died despite dramatic attempts at a rescue witnessed by thousands of people on the banks of the river, and millions on television. The whale was lifted on to a barge and carried down the river, in the hope that it could be taken to the open sea. But its condition deteriorated, it began to suffer muscle spasms, and it died before anything further could be done.

Experts believe that the whale's senses could have been damaged by military sonar. Some 30 strandings and deaths of whales around the world - from Tasmania to North America - have been linked to its use. The United Nations and other international bodies have warned that it is a major threat to the animals.

The investigation has also revealed that - in a separate, but deeply embarrassing development - the Government faces being hauled before the European Court for failing to take enough care of the whales and dolphins around Britain's shores.

Professor Hal Whitehead of Dalhousie University in Canada - acknowledged to be the world's leading expert on northern bottlenose whales - said yesterday that he had never known the deep-ocean species to wander so far from its habitat.

"It would be unusual, and cause concern, for one to be found in the North Sea or English Channel, let alone a long way up a pretty shallow river," he said. "Its nearest habitat would be south-west of Cornwall. We know that beaked whales - the group of species to which the northern bottlenose whale belongs - are particularly sensitive to underwater noise. There has been a lot of seismic activity off northern Scotland and in the North Sea, and I understand that the Royal Navy exercises frequently."

Many strandings and deaths of whales and dolphins have been linked to sonar surveys in recent years (see table). In March 2000, for example, whales of four species beached themselves in the Bahamas after a battle group from the US navy used sonar nearby. A US government investigation established that they had been affected by the sonar. Since then, the area's population of Cuvier's beaked whales has virtually disappeared; investigators conclude that they have either abandoned the area or died at sea.

The Washington-based National Resources Defence Council says that more than 30 such incidents have been linked to sonar use around the world.

Last week, a US court discovered that the US government had cut references to the effects of naval sonar from a report on the stranding of 37 whales in North Carolina a year ago, shortly after military manoeuvres.

Strandings in Britain have more than doubled in the past decade, from 360 in 1994 to 782 in 2004, and vets believe that the number of whales that wash up on shore are only one-tenth of those that die, suggesting that there are thousands of casualties.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has started legal proceedings against Britain for failing adequately to monitor the health of whales and dolphins in its seas.

Strandings: Sonar takes a deadly toll

JAPAN 1990: Six whales die after US Navy tests sonar

GREECE MAY 1996: Twelve Cuvier's beaked whales stranded on the west coast of Greece as Nato sweep the area with sonar.

CANARY ISLANDS JULY 2004: Fourteen whales beach during Nato exercises involving sonar. Strandings in 1985, 1988, 1989, 1991 and 2002 all coincide with naval exercises.

AUSTRALIA NOV 2004: Seventeen whales die in Bass Strait; 50 get stranded 300 miles away; 165 whales and dolphins later found dying. All coincide with sonar activities and seismic surveys.

US JAN 2005: Thirty-nine whales die after US Navy uses sonar in waters off North Carolina.

US March 2005 : Eighty dolphins beach as US Navy sub trails sonar off Florida Keys; 30 die.

TASMANIA OCT 2005: More than 110 pilot whales die; Australian Navy admits to using sonar.

NEW ZEALAND DECEMBER 2005: About 120 pilot whales die in the country's largest beaching for 12 years.

Experts examine Thames whale for cause of death By Steve Connor Science Editor
Published: 23 January 2006

It will be several days before marine biologists can identify the cause of death of the northern bottle-nosed whale that captured the heart of the nation when it swam up the Thames in London at the weekend.

The whale died on Saturday night after rescuers tried to carry it into deeper waters on a salvage barge.

The Zoological Society of London said it hoped that the results of a post-mortem examination on the 18ft carcass would be available by Wednesday. Paul Jepson, a marine biologist, and his colleague Rob Deavill, who performed the autopsy said blubber samples were being analysed and the "echo response" areas of the brain, were being studied to try to find out whether the animal had become disoriented.

Tony Woodley, of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue group, said the decision to move the whale was correct, despite the outcome: "We believe that if the whale had been left how it was then it would have slowly died and we don't think that option was acceptable."

A spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which was also involved in the rescue effort, said the "outpouring of emotion" should now be directed at saving whales elsewhere in the world. "Tragically, it's too late for this whale, but another 1,000 whales are currently in the sights of Japanese whaling vessels. Whales around the world face deadly threats - from whaling by Japan, Norway and Iceland, pollution and habitat destruction, and increased noise in the ocean," she said.

" We're calling on people to write to Tony Blair to let him know how much they care about whales and ask him to make a strong protest to whaling nations."

It will be several days before marine biologists can identify the cause of death of the northern bottle-nosed whale that captured the heart of the nation when it swam up the Thames in London at the weekend.

The whale died on Saturday night after rescuers tried to carry it into deeper waters on a salvage barge.

The Zoological Society of London said it hoped that the results of a post-mortem examination on the 18ft carcass would be available by Wednesday. Paul Jepson, a marine biologist, and his colleague Rob Deavill, who performed the autopsy said blubber samples were being analysed and the "echo response" areas of the brain, were being studied to try to find out whether the animal had become disoriented.

Tony Woodley, of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue group, said the decision to move the whale was correct, despite the outcome: "We believe that if the whale had been left how it was then it would have slowly died and we don't think that option was acceptable."
A spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which was also involved in the rescue effort, said the "outpouring of emotion" should now be directed at saving whales elsewhere in the world. "Tragically, it's too late for this whale, but another 1,000 whales are currently in the sights of Japanese whaling vessels. Whales around the world face deadly threats - from whaling by Japan, Norway and Iceland, pollution and habitat destruction, and increased noise in the ocean," she said.

" We're calling on people to write to Tony Blair to let him know how much they care about whales and ask him to make a strong protest to whaling nations."

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