Helena Horton & Patrick Sawer – October 6, 2018
A dramatic three stage removal operation could theoretically be mounted to rescue the Beluga whale which has found itself splashing about in the mouth of the river Thames. Animal welfare experts could use the same methods deployed to lift and fly Keiko – the whale which starred in the film Free Willy – to a safe sanctuary in 1993.
But for the moment Benny the Beluga will be allowed to remain in the Thames unhindered, unless it begins to show signs of ill health or distress. With the waters of the Thames and North Sea cooling with the onset of winter scientists believe the whale will be happy where it is until spring.
Then, if necessary they could lift it in a giant ‘wet sling’, before transferring the creature to a tank and flying it 1,148 miles to a sea sanctuary off Iceland.
It should be noted that this article is highly, highly inaccurate. British Divers Marine Life Rescue is keeping an eye on the beluga and this is what they had to say in response:
“It is rare that we have to question our British press when it comes to reporting animal welfare issues, but we do need to sadly correct an article that was published in the Telegraph on their website and Facebook pages, concerning the beluga in the Thames.
The following message has been sent to the Telegraph:
Regarding your erroneous and factually incorrect article regarding the beluga in the Thames, please pass this to your editor and make amends. For the record, I am Stephen Marsh, Operations Manager for British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR).
As one of those at the sharp end of the beluga (if there is such a thing!) I’m afraid I’m going to have to expose this article as being incredibly far from the truth.
Chris Parsons, who we know, trust and work closely has been quoted totally out of context. He hadn’t discussed the response with BDMLR, who are the responsible organisation, and his discussion with the journalist was regarding the plans for Seallife and WDC to fly two captive belugas out of China to a sea sanctuary in Iceland.
We are looking at options but have no plans to lift the beluga in strops as we know that could be incredible stressful. We have no plans to fly it to Iceland. There are no facilities in the U.K. at Sea Life or otherwise, that have suitable pools for a beluga and bearing in mind what happened with Morgan, the killer whale rescued in the North Sea that sadly is now in captivity in Tenerife, the last thing we want is for this animal to get anywhere near a captive facility.
At the moment we are looking at options, but the decision on what we can or can’t do will be determined by the beluga itself. We don’t intend catching it, so if it doesn’t strand we’d hope it would make its own way out to the North Sea where it would at least have a chance of making it back to its home waters. If it does strand then its future will be decided by an attending vet, who will have a lot of info from others who work with beluga in Canada. They would then decide which of the many options would be best for the beluga.
What may have happened here is that a Telegraph journalist has combined this story with the great news that WDC will be taking two beluga out of captivity in China and at the moment plan to put them into a sanctuary in Iceland.
Please feel free to put the Telegraph editor in touch with me as this article will actually harm the discussions we are currently having regarding the welfare of the beluga. We did have one call from the Telegraph last week and pointed them to our website for the latest information – obviously that wasn’t a good enough story. Many thanks.”