Authorities in Australia are racking their brains to save a humpback whale that drifted into a river that is home to a host of crocodiles.
Marine life experts were stunned recently after several recorded sightings of whales in East Alligator River in the Northern Territory’s World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park in northern Australia.
The whales, which are between 30- and 40-feet long, are part of a group of humpbacks that were traveling along Australia’s western coast to Antartica but have ventured very far inland after making a wrong turn.
“There are so many humpbacks heading up the W.A. (Western Australia state) coast now, they’re bound to end up in new places. What’s incredibly weird is the fact that they’re up a muddy, shallow river full of crocodiles — that’s unheard of,” marine ecologist Jason Fowler told the Associated Press.
Northern Territory government whale and dolphin scientist Carol Palmer said there was at least one whale still in the river on the weekend, though it’s possible the others are still close by.
“We don’t know what’s happened, but it’s obviously made a wrong turn and ended up in the East Alligator River,” Palmer said.
“It’s very tidal. It’s quite shallow and we’re all pretty keen to try to get this guy out,” she added.
The river’s murky water is home to plenty of crocodiles–European explorers thought they were alligators when the river was being named–who might not take kindly to the large whale’s sudden presence on their turf. The river’s strong current is probably tiring the whale out a lot, too, as it swims against it to stay in the same area.
The park created an exclusion zone near the mouth of the river last week to protect the whales in the shallow water from any boats traveling through the area.
Palmer noted that they will try luring the whale out of the river with recorded whale calls or spook it out by making noise against the sides of boats, methods that have proven successful in similar situations in the past.
In a Facebook post about the situation last week, the park emphasized that the whale was not in distress, but it was paramount that “the best case scenario is for the whale to make its way back out to sea.”
With News Wire Services
Video: Huge crocodile swims alongside fishing boat (ABC News)