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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 January 2006, 20:54 GMT
Thames whale could help others
Whale rescue

Animal welfare groups say the whale which died after swimming up the Thames may help raise awareness for the species' plight across the world.

The attempt to save the northern bottle-nosed whale was worldwide news, before the rescue operation ended in tragedy on Saturday night.

One animal welfare group has called for the "outpouring of emotion" to be directed towards other whales.

A post-mortem is being carried out to see why the whale entered the river.

Whale 'ambassador'

The whale died at 1900GMT on Saturday after being lifted onto a barge trying to take it back out to sea.

A spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said: "Whales around the world face deadly threats - from whaling by Japan, Norway and Iceland, pollution and habitat destruction, and increased noise in the ocean.

"We hope the whale which visited the UK Houses of Parliament can act as ambassador for all whales, and that its death won't be in vain."

She said that loud noise from undersea drilling, shipping traffic or military sonar could have led to the whale becoming disorientated and moving into the river.

The whale, picture courtesy of the Marine Connection
The whale passed the Houses of Parliament on Friday

Northern bottle-nosed whales are usually found in water over 1,000m deep in the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

But Tony Woodley, director of the group which attempted to save the whale on Saturday, said human interference could not yet be blamed for the whale's fate.

"It is generally accepted that the animal was lost, being away from its normal environment of the deep Atlantic, but until the post-mortem is completed we can't tell if it had major internal problems or not."

'Best shot'

He also defended the decision to lift the whale out of the water.

"We believe that if the whale would have been left how it was, it would have just slowly died and we don't think that was the acceptable option to take," he said.

"We did feel that what we did yesterday was the best that we could do in the circumstances and we gave it our best shot."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the government was trying its best to protect whales across the world.

The UK remains at the forefront of the anti-whaling campaign and the Government is determined to continue the moratorium on commercial whaling, a spokesman said.

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