Row flares over attmpted whale rescue

MARINE experts who fought to save a stranded whale in the river Orwell today criticised two men who leapt into the water with the animal.The British Divers Marine Life Rescue group said they were concerned the men, who approached the whale on a boat before entering the water causing it to rear up, had caused it extra stress in its final hours and risked being injured themselves.

MARINE experts who fought to save a stranded whale in the river Orwell today criticised two men who leapt into the water with the animal.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue group said they were concerned the men, who approached the whale on a boat before entering the water causing it to rear up, had caused it extra stress in its final hours and risked being injured themselves.

However one of the men spoke to the Evening Star to say they were only trying to help - and more injury had been caused by members of the rescue group who he claimed cut the whale with the propeller of their boat.

Trevor Weeks, the national co-ordinator for the group, said: “We actually advised them to get out of the water.

“What they were doing was dangerous and not productive to the rescue effort.”

Onlookers watched in amazement from the nearby banks of the Orwell as the pair approached the whale - which measured six metres in length - and were within touching distance of it in chest-deep water.

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Mr Weeks said while it appeared the men were trying to help the seven tonne whale reach deeper water, their efforts actually hampered the rescue attempts.

“It wasn't productive to the animal and could have caused more stress and discomfort to the animal,” he said.

Shane Wyatt, a staff member at the marina, said he and two others had tried to move the whale into deeper water where it would have a chance of returning to the sea.

He said: “To start with we were just splashing it and shouting, trying to encourage it to move away from where it was beached.

“That didn't work so we tried to move it with our hands - we didn't realise at this point that is weighed seven tonnes but we soon found out it was quite heavy.

“We were just trying to help - and we didn't do as much to harm it as one of the other boats which ran over it with a propeller boat, cutting it.

“My girlfriend was in the boat with us and she said she could see the water turning red underneath the whale.”

The whale's body was lifted from the river on Monday following its death on Saturday.

An expert from the Institute of Zoology in London travelled to Ipswich to take samples from the body of the northern bottlenose before it refloated on the high tide.

The whale was first spotted in the river near the Orwell bridge at about 2pm on Friday. A major rescue effort was launched and BDMLR volunteers from Kent, London, Essex and across East Anglia converged on the river in a bid to shepherd the whale to deeper waters.

However the effort was called off when darkness fell and in the early hours of Saturday morning the whale became stranded in the shallows near the shore on the Orwell Country Park side of the river.

The teams moved in again at first light and the whale was given powerful sedatives and it died at about 6.30am.

It floated on the tide closer to Nacton Shores but was later towed to Cliff Quay where it was removed from the water yesterday and taken away to be incinerated.

What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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