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Experts plan to rescue humpback whales stranded in Northern Territory’s crocodile-infested waters

Animal officials try to save the life of a humpback whale found in a river full of crocodiles in the Northern Territory

  • Wildlife officers await ‘window of opportunity’ to save whales from crocodile waters
  • A humpback whale still swims in the East Alligator River in the Northern Territory
  • Experts are trying to intervene by using whale sounds and underwater noise
  • Mammal is one of three that entered the river in Kakadu National Park
  • Boats are blocked from entering the river to avoid collisions
  • Park staff and scientists hope the whale will swim out to sea, but can intervene

Authorities are planning to return a group of affected humpback whales stranded in crocodile-infested waters in the Northern Territory to safety.

Animal officials in the Kakadu National Park will use special whale sounds and underwater noise pollution to try and save the whales from the East Alligator River.

The animals were spotted by marine ecologist Jason Fowler on Sept. 2 while sailing with friends.

Experts are unsure if the other two are still around due to cloudiness of the water.

“It’s so cloudy you can’t see them until they’re out of the water,” Mr. Fowler said Tuesday.

Wildlife officers in Kakadu National Park continue to explore options for intervention with experts to rescue a humpback whale from crocodile-infested waters (pictured) after it ventured up the East Alligator River with two others

Wildlife officers in Kakadu National Park continue to explore options for intervention with experts to rescue a humpback whale from crocodile-infested waters (pictured) after it ventured up the East Alligator River with two others

It is believed to be the first time a humpback whale has been spotted this far out on the waterway, with a report posted 30km inland.

Park staff and scientists have cordoned off the area to boats hoping the whale will swim back into the sea, but they may need to intervene if necessary.

Feach Moyle, Zoologist from Kakadu National Park, said, “The highest tide of the year will be in a few weeks, so there’s a chance to hit the sea.”

Dr. Carol Palmer, Northern Territory Government scientist who is part of the emergency guide to getting the whales out of the “ unusual ” situation, told ABC Radio Darwin that the team was looking into using whale calls to lure it out to sea.

An exclusion zone (shown) has now been established to prevent boats from entering, from the mouth of the East Alligator River to a point about 30 km upstream

An exclusion zone (shown) has now been established to prevent boats from entering, from the mouth of the East Alligator River to a point about 30 km upstream

An exclusion zone (shown) has now been established to prevent boats from entering, from the mouth of the East Alligator River to a point about 30 km upstream

The team was also using underwater noise pollution to encourage the mammals to move on, she said.

There are examples of whale calls that were previously used to influence where a whale is going. We also look for loud noises to discourage the whale from moving on [upriver],’ she said, ABC reported.

The team will spend the next few days trying to tag one of the whales to better track its movement, before making a decision on what to do.

“Then, I think, based on that information, the next step will be to try to see if, from a 100 percent safety perspective, we can move the whale into Van Diemen’s Gulf,” said Dr. Palmer.

Parks Australia said in a statement that seeing whales in the river was “a very unusual event.”

“As far as we know, this is the first time this has happened,” the statement read.

The (remaining) whale is not currently in need and it is not an emergency. The best scenario is for the whale to return to sea. ‘

An exclusion zone to prevent boats from entering remains in place from the mouth of the East Alligator River to a point about 30 km upstream.

The whale is depicted swimming in the river, which Parks Australia says is 'a very unusual event' and the 'first time this has happened'

The whale is depicted swimming in the river, which Parks Australia says is 'a very unusual event' and the 'first time this has happened'

The whale is depicted swimming in the river, which Parks Australia says is ‘a very unusual event’ and the ‘first time this has happened’

“The last thing we want is a boat-whale collision in waters where crocodiles are common and visibility is zero underwater,” the statement read.

“We also don’t want boats to accidentally force the whale further up the river.”

Kakadu National Park staff is monitoring the remaining whale and collecting data.

“Scientists from Kakadu National Park and the NT government will continue to monitor the whale for the next few days,” the statement read.

“We understand this is a very unusual and exciting event, but our priority right now is to ensure the safety and welfare of visitors and the whale.”

An aerial view of the East Alligator River. Park staff and a team of scientists are currently keeping an eye on the whale

An aerial view of the East Alligator River. Park staff and a team of scientists are currently keeping an eye on the whale

An aerial view of the East Alligator River. Park staff and a team of scientists are currently keeping an eye on the whale

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