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Humpback whale plays up for the camera in Scottish Loch

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Marine charity says although it is a beautiful sight, the public should keep their distance

Those tempted to get a glimpse of Scotland’s latest star attraction are being urged to show some respect by a wildlife charity.

An adult humpback whale, possibly greater than 12 metres in length, was photographed leaping out of the water at Auchalick Bay at Loch Fyne on Wednesday.

Onlooker Elise Rankin captured the mammal, the fifth such whale to be seen off western Scotland in the past month.

Rankin captured the image from the safety of the shore and the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) is appealing for others to follow suit and not attempt to get too close.

“Although humpbacks can put on a spectacular show and are humbling to watch, we appeal to people not to stress the whale by approaching in boats,” Dr Conor Ryan, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s (HWDT) sightings and strandings officer said.

Although humpbacks can put on a spectacular show and are humbling to watch, we appeal to people not to stress the whale by approaching in boats

“This individual is not in its typical environment and may be lost in the sea loch. Besides, there are strict laws in place to protect this species from harassment.”

The whale has been spotted numerous times in the Firth of Clyde over the past week and also surfaced alongside the Scottish Ocean Youth Trust’s yacht, spouting and swimmingly strongly in a northward direction into Loch Fyne on Wednesday.

The whale was observed breaching out of the water and lob-tailing – a dramatic manoeuvre in which the animal throws its massive tail, up to five metres across, out of the water, creating a huge splash visible for miles.

Experts say this behaviour could be used for communication, display or perhaps to ward off other animals.

Humpback whales were once hunted to the brink of extinction in Scottish waters, but in recent years HWDT has noticed an increase in the number of sightings reported to its online sightings database.

Photograph: Clare Embling HWDT
Photograph: Clare Embling HWDT

Over the past month, there have been at least five different humpback whales documented off Scotland’s west coast, from the Isle of Lewis to the Firth of Clyde.

Dr Ryan added: “Usually we expect just one or two sightings of humpback whales per year, so to have five in a month is very encouraging and exciting.”

Dr Karl Hurd, southwest Scotland regional coordinator of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, an organisation which rescued stranded and entangled whales, said he hoped the whale will make its own way back to deeper water and come to no harm.

“At the moment, the whale is swimming freely with no signs of distress or entanglement,” he added.