A rare beluga whale has apparently been seen swimming in the River Thames in Kent - and conservationists warn it could be “in trouble.”
The animal was first spotted by ornithologist Dave Andrews, who posted footage to Twitter.
“Can’t believe I’m writing this, no joke – BELUGA in the Thames off Coalhouse Fort,” he wrote.
Andrews added that the whale appeared to be feeding around barges and had stayed in the same area for several hours.
The British Divers Marine Life Rescue, which helps with rescues of stranded cetaceans and other marine animals, said they were sending their area coordinator down to the river to monitor the situation.
A spokeswoman for the organisation said it 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.
While the report of the animal prompted excitement on social media, conservationists warned that the beluga whale, normally found in the High Arctic, was lost and could be in trouble.
Danny Groves, from Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) said: “This is a High Arctic species thousands of miles from where it should be in Greenland, Svalbard or the Barents Sea, they are usually associated close to the ice.
“He or she is obviously very lost and quite possibly in trouble.”
He urged people to give the whale “space and minimise disturbance”.
Groves said it was not the first time a beluga has been spotted in UK waters in recent years.
“In the summer of 2015 two were spotted off the Northumberland coast and one in Northern Ireland,” he added.
In 2006, a whale died after it swum up the Thames into central London despite efforts to rescue the animal.
An RSPCA spokesman told HuffPost UK: “The RSPCA is aware of reports of a whale – possibly a beluga – in the Thames. We are working with other agencies to monitor the situation and ready to provide appropriate assistance if requested.”
According to the National Geographic, beluga whales are smallish, ranging from 13 to 20 feet in length. They are social and generally live together in small groups known as pods. Though common in the Arctic Ocean’s coastal waters, they are found in subarctic waters as well and migrate southward in large herds when the sea freezes over.