A humpback whale making its way to Antarctica has become stranded after entering a crocodile-infested river in Australia.
The large mammal is one out of three whales that swam into the East Alligator River at Kakadu National Park early last week, according to officials. While the two other whales have since moved away from the area, one appears to be stuck as it remains inland.
"As far as we’re aware, this is the first time this has happened," the park said in a press release on Friday. "Kakadu National Park staff are monitoring the situation and working with NT government authorities to gather data on this unusual event, an expert working group has been set up to monitor the whale and prepare plans for intervention if required."
An exclusion zone has been set up between the mouth of the river and 18 miles upstream "for the welfare of the whale and for the safety of people who may have been considering going to the area by boat," according to officials.
"The last thing we want is a collision between a boat and whale in waters where crocodiles are prevalent and visibility underwater is zero," a statement from the park read. "We also don’t want boats to inadvertently force the whale further up the river."
Park officials added that the whale is "not in distress at the moment and it is not an emergency situation."
"The best case scenario is for the whale to make its way back out to sea," the release read. "We appreciate that this is a very unusual and exciting event, however, our priority at present is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of visitors and the whale."
Despite its name, the East Alligator River is inhabited by saltwater crocodiles, a reptile known for camouflaging in murky waters and attacking humans — even when they're on boats, according to the park.
Though the crocodiles are considered ambush predators, they are unlikely to attack the whale while it's in their territory, Carol Palmer — a marine ecosystems scientist at the NT Department of Environment and Natural Resources — told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"The whale looks to be in good condition. As long as that remains the case, it's not something a crocodile would even be capable of attacking. It's just way out of a crocodile's world," she said.
As for the whale itself, experts are still unable to determine why the cetacean and its travel companions swam upriver in the first place.
"It is really unusual for this to happen," Palmer said. "At this time, the whales are heading south to Antarctica to feed during the summer. And we are not sure why these whales took a wrong turn."
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