The minke whale had been stranded for hours in the Thames but rescuers managed to get it onto dinghy and float it along the river
Rescuers have managed to free a small minke whale which became stranded in the River Thames in west London.
The whale, which is thought to have been a young minke whale, was first spotted at around 7pm on Sunday at Richmond Lock and Weir.
Hundreds of people had gathered after the whale, which was between three to four metres in length, became stuck on the lock’s boat rollers.
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The Port London Authority (PLA) had told Sky News that the whale was freed at around 1am after a joint operation by the London Fire Brigade, a Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) crew, as well as the British Divers Marine Life Rescue.
The spokesperson said the whale was being towed along the river to Isleworth but managed to break free and swam away.
Its whereabouts are not known now and the public are being asked to keep an eye out for it as it is not in the best health.
On Sunday evening, videos had shown the animal being hosed down by a man, while a vet was performing a check-up at the river’s edge, before the RNLI had arrived at the scene to cheers from local onlookers at around 9pm.
The whale was seen thrashing around in between periods of apparent lifelessness, but there rescue workers were acting really steadily and cautiously, aware of how distressed the young whale was.
Just after 10pm, the rescuers put the young whale on to an inflatable dinghy and the whale’s tail could be seen thrashing around a little.
The national co-ordinator for British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Julia Cable, said: “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.”
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Jake Manketo, aged 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 that the whale was first spotted at midday, a few miles up the river Thames near Barnes Bridge.
Minke whales are the smallest of the great whales, and grow to about 10 metres in length.
They can usually be found throughout the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.