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3 Lost Humpbacks Go Where Humpbacks Shouldn't Go

At least one remains in a crocodile-infested river in Australia
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2020 7:38 AM CDT

(Newser) – Three humpback whales made a wrong turn in Australia and ended up in a place where whales have never been seen before: a muddy, bendy river. That's bad. A little worse is that the river is named the East Alligator River, for good reason, reports the BBC. Two of the whales are believed to have made it back to open water—it's also possible they're just staying underwater—and scientists are now trying to figure out how to coax the last one to safety, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The whale is about 18 miles inland now in Kakadu, and wildlife officials may use whale calls or loud, underwater noises to discourage it from going further inland.

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“It’s never occurred before, we’ve had no records of this in the past," says marine scientist Carol Palmer. "We’ve collaborated with the traditional owners of East Alligator River, and they’ve also never seen humpback whales in any of the alligator rivers." As its name suggests, the river is infested with crocs and alligators, though authorities think the whale is probably safe as long as it's able to keep swimming. If it becomes beached, however, "it's an easy feed" for the crocs, says Palmer. Fishermen first spotted the whales on Sept. 2, notes the Guardian, and the best guess is that they swam into an estuary during their migration to Antarctica. (Read more humpback whale stories.)

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