The traditional habitat of the beluga whale is not the River Thames. I’m not entirely sure for which creatures the Thames is the traditional habitat. Water rats? Water horses? Short-statured folkloric men that will promise you gold but steal your baby? I simply don’t know. What I can say for certain is that, although Benny the beluga whale does not belong in the Thames, he is very much still there after first being spotted in the river nearly a month ago.
Despite some pretty extreme plans to airlift the whale to Iceland proposed by a scientist not connected to the body that’s ensuring Benny’s wellbeing, miraculously, he doesn’t seem to be suffering any obvious ill-effects or to be in any immediate danger. He has, however, proved to be an impediment for a night of fireworks planned by the local council, after it was determined that perturbing the whale with loud noises would breach the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Gravesham’s 2018 fireworks display was due to happen on November 2, but has been indefinitely postponed until the coming winter finally forces Benny to leave the river. Gravesham Borough Council leader David Turner said in a statement that moving the fireworks wasn’t an option:
While we understand this is also disappointing to the thousands of residents and visitors who enjoy our fantastic fireworks display every year, we have to ensure our special visitor is kept safe and well.
We have considered alternative sites, but there is not a big enough area we can use for the 15,000 people that attend our fireworks display. Also, the advice given to us is that we ‘should not re-arrange the fireworks to take place near the river in the Gravesend area’, as this may still disturb Benny.
Keeping Benny safe has to be our priority while he visits us here in Gravesend, thousands of miles from his usual Arctic habitat. I’m sure everyone, while disappointed by this postponement of the fireworks, will understand.
In the statement, Gravesham Borough Council said that the fireworks arranged for when Benny leaves would be themed specifically around the whale, which almost makes it seem mean to wait for him to leave before they do it.