'Beluga whale' spotted in River Thames near London

'Beluga whale' spotted in River Thames near London

According to the UK-based Whale and Dolphin Conservation group, there have been just 20 sightings of beluga whales off the United Kingdom coast before today's incident.

Rescue teams are on standby in case the whale gets into danger.

Lucy Babey, head of science and conservation at ORCA, a United Kingdom charity that works with whales and dolphins, also urged caution.

Scientists are concerned that Benny may not be able to find his way back to the Arctic sea, where the whales live.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society spokesman Danny Groves said: "This one is thousands of miles from where it should be".

"Beluga whales are a species of the icy Arctic - finding one in the tepid Thames is an astonishingly rare event", said Rod Downie, polar chief adviser at WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature.

"We are surprised and a little saddened that it has resurfaced again - we had hoped it had gone out to deeper waters and gone out to where it should be", said Lucy Babey, head of science and conservation at the ORCA charity.

Tanya Ferry, environment manager at the Port of London Authority which is monitoring the whale, said it was unclear what the whale could eat.

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"We certainly don't want people trying to rescue it", she added.

Can you beluga it? "There have only been around 20 sightings of beluga whales off the United Kingdom coast previously, but these have occurred off Northumberland, Northern Ireland and Scotland".

The RSPCA said: "We are working with other agencies to monitor the situation and ready to provide appropriate assistance if requested", it said.

Two beluga whales play together.

"The white body colour, absence of a prominent dorsal fin, bulbous forehead and general swimming motion all suggest this very strongly", he said.

Belugas are typically found farther north in frigid Arctic waters.

Belugas, which can grow up to 5.5 metres (18 feet) long, spend most of their time off the coasts of Alaska, Canada and Russian Federation, though they often travel great distances in search of food.

The whales were nicknamed "canaries of the sea" by early whalers due to their squeaks and squawks.

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