Rescuers free stranded minke whale in River Thames at Richmond

Members of the public have spotted a small whale which was freed in Richmond overnight swimming in a different stretch of the River Thames.

The whale, thought to be a young minke whale, was first spotted at Richmond Lock and Weir at around 7pm on Sunday.

Hundreds of people gathered after the mammal, which was between three to four metres long, became stuck on the lock’s boat rollers.

The Port London Authority (PLA) told Sky News the whale was freed at 1am after a joint operation by the London Fire Brigade, a Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) crew, and the British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

It has now been spotted at Teddington Lock where Twitter user Fiona Adams said the RNLI was in attendance.

"The whale has returned up river to #Teddington Lock. @rnli_teddington in attendance monitoring the situation. Husband monitoring from a safer distance on shore," she wrote.

The RNLI told Sky News that the whale was near the lock and has gone upstream. They said they were monitoring its movements.

Earlier a PLA spokesperson said the whale was towed along the river to Isleworth but managed to break free and swam away.

On Sunday evening, videos showed the animal being hosed down by a man, while a vet performed a check-up at the river’s edge, before the RNLI arrived at the scene to cheers from onlookers at around 9pm.

The whale had been thrashing around in between periods of apparent lifelessness, but rescue workers were taking it really steady and cautiously, aware of how distressed the baby whale was.

Just after 10pm, rescuers put the whale on to an inflatable dinghy and the whale’s tail could be seen thrashing a little.

Julia Cable, national co-ordinator for British Divers Marine Life Rescue, told Sky News: "It’s surprising that no one spotted the whale on its journey to Richmond Lock.

"We do not know how long it has been trapped here but it was spotted at 7.30pm.

"The nutritional condition of the whale is fairly poor. He or she isn’t nicely rounded like a whale should be, so it’s nutritionally compromised.

"There’s also damage to the pectoral fins, from stranding, and the fin is showing signs that perhaps it was stranded somewhere earlier in the day as well. But it’s now comfortable and the breathing rate is low.

"We have sent pictures to the vet so we can get further advice on what to do next."

Jake Manketo, 20, from Richmond, said: "We couldn’t believe our eyes when we first saw the poor fella, not every day something like this happens in Richmond."

It is believed the whale was first spotted at midday, a few miles up the river near Barnes Bridge.

Minke whales are the smallest of the great whales, growing to about 10 metres.

They can usually be found throughout the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

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