25 August 2005

UK: Dolphins and seals spotted in the Thames

Dolphins, seals and porpoises are among the more unexpected visitors to London's River Thames and its estuary, a survey revealed on Wednesday.

A family of harbour porpoises have been spotted feasting on fish off Vauxhall Bridge in the centre of the British capital, according to the survey by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Common seals were regular visitors to the waters around Canary Wharf, to the east, and the Thames Barrier, and they have also been seen near Tower Bridge, it said.

Even dolphins have been reported enjoying the waters near Southend in Essex, just inside the mouth of the river.

Riverside pub-goers, commuters and Thames users were among those who contributed to the study.

Renata Kowalik, ZSL's conservation biologist and co-author of the report, said: "We have been really pleased with the response from the public, and the survey was a great success.

"The results confirm that marine mammals are frequent visitors to the Thames and have helped us to fill a gap in the current knowledge about the wildlife in the Thames."

The Thames Marine Mammal Survey, launched in July 2004, received 103 sightings by the public of a total of 197.

It found that seals were the most frequent marine mammals spotted, with 46 common seals, 30 grey and 41 unidentified seal species sighted.

Some 62 harbour porpoises were seen, and were found to venture further up the estuary. ZSL said they apparently remained in and around the estuary all year.

The 18 dolphins spotted were reported around the mouth of the estuary only during the warmer months of spring and summer, suggesting, the report said, that they are seasonal visitors.

The organisation hopes even more people will become involved this year and report sightings. The information will be used to support conservation plans for animals that use the river.

Source: www.iol.co.za


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