Rescuers Say Thames Whale's Death May Save Others
LONDON Marine experts who failed to rescue a whale stranded in London's Thames River said on Sunday they hoped worldwide public interest in its fate would promote conservation of the endangered species.
Rescue teams had tried to return the adolescent 18-foot (six metre) northern bottle-nosed whale to the open seas but it died on Saturday evening after its health took a turn for the worse.
"It was always a race against time," Tony Woodley of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue group, which coordinated the rescue attempt, told Reuters.
Paul Jepson, head of the UK Marine Mammals Strandings Programme, said he hoped international coverage of the animal's fate would have a positive impact.
"There are probably many children who may remember seeing this bottle-nosed whale in London and in the future I hope that they may become marine mammal enthusiasts and conservationists."
The whale triggered headlines around the world after it was spotted on Friday in the Thames near the Houses of Parliament, around 40 miles (65 km) from the sea.
It was the first time since records began in 1913 that a whale had been seen so far upstream.
Huge crowds lined the river banks during the elaborate rescue operation on Saturday afternoon, with every twist and turn in the saga captured on live television.
Rescuers managed to lift the whale by crane onto a barge but it died as they tried to take it to open water.
The result of the post-mortem, to be conducted by Jepson, will not be known for several days.
Experts speculated the whale was so far from its natural environment because it was either very ill, had got lost chasing food or had been driven from its usual habitat by military testing or loud sonar.