An injured minke whale calf that got stranded in the River Thames will be put down after its condition deteriorated and the prospects for its survival diminished.
“They’re going to put the whale to sleep. It’s suffering quite badly, it has been for about the last 45 minutes,” said Julia Cable, national co-ordinator at British Divers Marine Life Rescue, an organisation co-ordinating the rescue bid.
The whale was freed in the early hours of this morning after it became stranded along the River Thames in south-west London late last night.
Hundreds gathered at Richmond Lock and Weir after the whale, believed to be a Minke and between three to four metres long, became stuck on the lock’s boat rollers.
Videos showed it being hosed down by a man believed to be a Port of London Authority (PLA) staffer, while a vet performed a check-up at the river’s edge, before the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) arrived at the scene to the cheers of onlookers around 9pm.
Fire crews were also at the scene, along with the British Divers Marine Life Rescue service.
Footage posted from the scene showed the whale finally being freed at about 1am.
Glen Nicolaides from London Fire Brigade told the BBC the whale had been moved to a more “stable” location where it would be assessed to determine the scale of its injuries and whether it could be released.
Earlier, a witness said that “quite the crowd” watched as the attempted rescue took place.
Jake Manketo, 20, from Richmond, said: “Everyone here is just hoping they get it out. “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.
A spokesman for the PLA, which owns and operates the lock, said: “At around 7pm on Sunday, a small whale, approximately 3-4m long, believed to be a Minke whale, became stranded at Richmond Lock and Weir.
“PLA staff have attempted to assist the whale with water along with British Divers Marine Life Rescue.”
Minke whales are the smallest of the great whales, growing to about 10m. They can usually be found throughout the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Their range extends from the ice edge in the Arctic during the summer to near the equator during winter.
The lock is situated between Teddington and Richmond, comprising of three vertical steel gates suspended from a footbridge.