BUENOS AIRES (AFP) - A disoriented whale stunned onlookers and delighted tourists at Buenos Aires' bustling waterfront on Monday, swimming alongside boats and periodically surfacing to the perplexed crowds.
The small whale, whose species was not immediately confirmed, turned up well off its healthy course - near the docks in glitzy Puerto Madero, the capital's upscale neighborhood.
Appearing somewhat distressed, the whale bobbed around a group of yachts docked at the popular residential and nightlife haunt.
Marine mammal researcher Enrique Crespo said the whale may have lost its way while migrating.
If it is a young adult, it could survive, but if it is a baby separated from its mother the prognosis is grimmer, he said.
Whale Conservation Institute chief Diego Taboada stressed "it is totally outside its habitat, and it has to be put back on course".
"It has serious problems with its vital signs," he warned, noting that contact with fresh water would likely contribute to infection.
Navy officials were trying to help the animal get out of the fresh water and back to salt water.
Southern right whales migrate toward cold waters of the Mar Argentino area every year, about 1,400km south of Buenos Aires.
Spotting them is a big tourist attraction between May and December but they are not often spied in fresh water.
Buenos Aires lies where the fresh water of the Rio de la Plata empties into the South Atlantic Ocean.