‘Benny the Beluga’ facing Christmas in the Thames far from home

File photo showing a Beluga whale swims in the River Thames near Gravesend, east of London. (Reuters)
Updated 13 December 2018
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‘Benny the Beluga’ facing Christmas in the Thames far from home

  • A beluga whale that was first spotted nearly three months ago in the River Thames is still feeding healthily

LONDON: A beluga whale that was first spotted nearly three months ago in the River Thames is still feeding healthily east of the British capital and facing a lone Christmas hundreds of miles from its normal Arctic habitat.
The white cetacean, which feeds on fish, squid and crabs, was first spotted in September and surfaced near Gravesend, Kent on the southern side of the estuary.
The last spotting of the whale, dubbed Benny the Beluga by the British media, was on Dec. 12 east of Gravesend, said a spokesman for the Port of London Authority which oversees the river.
“The whale pops up, and I am not exaggerating, for literally three to four seconds and then he disappears for 10 or 15 minutes and he moves in a wide, dark river, so you see how hard it is to track his precise location,” the spokesman said.
“This whale in its natural environment in the Arctic is a diverse feeder – so it is not a fussy eater,” the spokesman said. “The Thames is much cleaner now so there are more fish stocks.”
The beluga appears to be healthy, he added.
The last sighting of beluga whales in UK waters was in 2015 when they were spotted off northeastern England near the Northumberland coastline, but they left shortly afterwards.
Belugas, which can grow up to 5.5 meters (18 feet) long, spend most of their time off the coasts of Alaska, Canada and Russia, though they often travel great distances in search of food.


Two-headed turtle born in Malaysia

Updated 18 July 2019
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Two-headed turtle born in Malaysia

  • While rare, it was not the first time a two-headed baby turtle has been found
  • Green turtles are one of the largest sea turtles

KUALA LUMPUR: A two-headed baby turtle has been born in Malaysia, captivating conservationists, but it only survived a few days after being discovered.
It was found Monday on Mabul island, off the Malaysian part of Borneo, in a nest alongside more than 90 other recently hatched green turtles.
David McCann, marine biologist and conservation manager for group SJ SEAS — which oversees the nesting site — said the creature was “utterly fascinating.”
“The right head seems to control the front right flipper, and the left head the front left flipper. Yet they are capable of coordinating their movements in order to walk and swim,” he said in a statement.
SJ SEAS chairman Mohamad Khairuddin Riman added: “We have released around 13,000 hatchlings from the hatchery and have never seen anything like this before.”
But the turtle died late Wednesday, Sen Nathan, a vet from Sabah Wildlife Department, told AFP.
He said the cause of death was not yet known but added the turtle would have had little chance of surviving long in the wild.
“It would have been poached by an eagle because it could not swim well,” he said.
While rare, it was not the first time a two-headed baby turtle has been found.
Nathan said one was discovered in 2014, on an island off Malaysia’s east coast, which survived for three months.
Green turtles are one of the largest sea turtles, and are mainly found in tropical and subtropical waters.
Classified as endangered, they are threatened by habitat loss as well as by poachers who hunt them for their meat and eggs.