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There's a Lonely Beluga (Named Benny) Lost in the Thames

Only 20 beluga sightings have been reported in the U.K. since the 1960s.

For some Gravesend residents, the chance to see a beluga whale swimming through the Thames is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Some got lucky enough to have that experience last week, when "Benny" showed up in the English estuary, swimming, flopping and diving. While he was behaving like a typical beluga, his location was anything but normal.

Typically, the relatively small whales live hundreds of miles north of England, in areas like Scandinavia, Russia, Alaska and Canada. There, their thick blubber keeps them warm among the Arctic's frigid waters.

They're considered a rare sighting even that far north, and only 20 beluga sightings have been reported in the U.K. since the 1960s.

Benny the beluga Flickr/Lynn D. Rosentrater

So, it's understandable why people would rush to the shore to see the beluga, who has been given the name "Benny." People cut out of school and work to flock to the area, trying to get a glimpse of Benny as he swam through the Thames.

And as cool as it might be for them to get a glimpse of the beloved beluga, it's not so cool that Benny is so far outside his comfort zone.

Local wildlife officials have tried to observe Benny from their boats at a safe distance — experts quoted in the Independent say he appears to be healthy. So they're not sure why he is so far away from his pod.

They worry he may swim closer to the more dangerous waters near London and have warned people not to get near him with boats or fishing gear. The BBC reports that officials are keeping an eye on his behavior, and rescue teams are at the ready in case Benny gets into some trouble.

But there's no good way to steer him to sea — hopefully, Benny the lonely beluga can figure out how to do that all on his own.

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