BBC : Beluga whale spotted in the Thames off Gravesend

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Media captionThe whale was thought to be feeding in the area

A Beluga whale has been seen in the River Thames in Kent, marine life rescuers have said.

It was first spotted by ecologist and ornithologist Dave Andrews, who said it had been feeding around barges near Gravesend.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue said it seemed to be "swimming strongly".

Spokeswoman Julia Cable urged the public not to get too close to the whale and "to watch it from the shore".

A Beluga whale was last spotted in the UK three years ago off the coast of Northumberland, and sightings were "extremely rare", she said.

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She added hopefully it would swim back out to sea, and not travel the other way up the Thames.

In 2006 an 18ft (5m) northern bottle-nosed whale died after becoming stranded in the river.

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Media captionLive aerial shots from the Thames

The RSPCA said it was aware of reports of a whale in the Thames.

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

The Beluga whale, or white whale, can grow up to 5.5m (18ft) long and weigh up to 1,600kg (3,530lb). They are normally found in the Arctic.

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