Body of 'Thames Dolphin' found washed up at Wandsworth

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 10 November 2017

A two-metre long dolphin believed to have been swimming in the River Thames for over a week has washed up dead on the foreshore of the southern bank of the river at Wandsworth, south London.

Thames_Dolphin_N
© MPSonthewater

In noisy and busy estuaries echolocation can be interrupted and the animal can find itself disorientated and unable to find it’s way back to open water.

Marine Conservation Society

The creature, christened the Thames dolphin, was first spotted on October 30 and had since been seen swimming up and down the stretch of river that winds through the capital.

Police confirmed a dolphin had been found dead on social media.

The Marine Policing unit @MPSonthewater tweeted: “Sad to tell you that a dead Common #Dolphin was washed up on the foreshore at Wandsworth yesterday.

“Our friends at @ZSLMarine will carry out tests to determine why it was in fresh water.

“There may be others so keep an eye out and report any sightings.”

Pictures on social media showed the animal swimming with its fin protruding out of the river water.

This sort of thing is rare but not unheard of. At MCS we’ve heard of cetaceans like dolphins and porpoises making their way into our rivers, but invariably their survival rate is low. Dolphins use echolocation to send out sounds and then listen for their echo to work out where they are and what’s around them. But In noisy and busy estuaries this system can be interrupted and the animal can find itself disorientated and unable to find it’s way back to open water.

Robert Deaville, from the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme for the Zoological Society of London, said some sightings of the ‘Thames dolphin’ had appeared to show it entangled with some man-made linear object. He said: “We have been doing this work for 27 years and we have only ever had 12 common dolphin strandings on the east coast. However it came to be in the Thames it’s an unusual occasion.”

Mr Deaville said the preliminary results from a post-mortem
investigation showed the 224cm-long dolphin was undernourished, probably relatively aged and missing some of its teeth.

Its stomach was contracted, suggesting it had not been able to find food while in the river, and there were impression marks around its torso which could have been caused by contact with a floating line.

Mr Deaville said it was “certainly possible” that more than one dolphin had made its way inland but that he understood there had been no further sightings reported since the animal’s body was discovered by the Port of London Authority on Tuesday morning.

His team is awaiting the results of further tests to confirm whether the dolphin had an underlying infection and establish a final cause of death, he added.

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