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Specialists ready to push stranded whale out to sea if it fails to refloat on high tide

August 10, 16:03 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Experts think the whale was chased into the river by a school of killer whales

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© Yuri Smityuk/TASS

MOSCOW, August 10. /TASS/. Specialists are working on possible options to save a great polar whale that became stranded in the river mouth in Russia’s far eastern Khabarovsk region if the whale fails to refloat itself on a night high tide.

Specialists are getting ready to push it out to sea by towing it on special straps, a spokesman for the Russian minister of natural resources and ecology has told TASS.

Experts hope the 13-meter-long whale will be able to refloat itself on a high tide during the night, meanwhile looking into alternative options. Specialists believe the whale was chased into the river by a school of killer whales, spokesman Nikolai Gudkov said.

"An option of using mechanisms to push the whale out is considered, we will be towing it, lifting it slightly on straps. Colleagues are looking into all options, they have received instructions. But the most humane option is to move the whale out during the night’s high tide. We hope it will manage to turn round or swim out backwards," the spokesman said.

Gudkov also said the whale was slightly injured, but most likely not by killer whales. After the whale is returned into the sea, it will be escorted to a safe distance from the shore to help it avoid killer whales in shallow water.

"Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Sergey Donskoy personally monitors the situation, being updated on the course of the rescue operation," the ministry press service said earlier.

According to the ministry, the whale is in a good condition. To avoid its dehydration, workers of the local nature reserve Shantarskiye Ostrova, who spotted the whale, are pouring water over it using fire-protection pumps.

A 13-meter great polar whale swam into the river flowing out of Lake Bolshoye on Bolshoi Shantar Island in the Khabarovsk region during a high tide. Now it can neither turn round nor swim back into the lake. Specialists are consulting all renowned experts in rescuing marine mammals, including those from the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Olga Shpak, a research officer from the institute, told TASS that all hopes were on the tide overnight to August 11. She said there are two tides a day in the area, but the first one was too low for the whale to refloat itself. "Now we will have higher water, at 4 am, local time (9 pm Moscow time on August 10). It if won’t be high enough, then most likely the end will be sad," she added.

The research officer said specialists must exercise caution now, they must not approach the whale from the side of his tail. "It is very important not to have the frightened and disoriented whale swim downstream when this high tide begins, that is why I wrote to the national park asking them to deploy one or two boats and make noise, make barricades and frighten the whale off the coast," Shpak explained.

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