Experts examine Thames whale for cause of death

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The Independent Online

It will be several days before marine biologists can identify the cause of death of the northern bottle-nosed whale that captured the heart of the nation when it swam up the Thames in London at the weekend.

The whale died on Saturday night after rescuers tried to carry it into deeper waters on a salvage barge.

The Zoological Society of London said it hoped that the results of a post-mortem examination on the 18ft carcass would be available by Wednesday. Paul Jepson, a marine biologist, and his colleague Rob Deavill, who performed the autopsy said blubber samples were being analysed and the "echo response" areas of the brain, were being studied to try to find out whether the animal had become disoriented.

Tony Woodley, of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue group, said the decision to move the whale was correct, despite the outcome: "We believe that if the whale had been left how it was then it would have slowly died and we don't think that option was acceptable."

A spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which was also involved in the rescue effort, said the "outpouring of emotion" should now be directed at saving whales elsewhere in the world. "Tragically, it's too late for this whale, but another 1,000 whales are currently in the sights of Japanese whaling vessels. Whales around the world face deadly threats - from whaling by Japan, Norway and Iceland, pollution and habitat destruction, and increased noise in the ocean," she said.

" We're calling on people to write to Tony Blair to let him know how much they care about whales and ask him to make a strong protest to whaling nations."