Also in the News

Australian wildlife officers on trail of 'whale rider'

A southern right whale off the coast of South Africa 2009
Image caption The southern right whale migrates along Australia's coasts

Australian officials are investigating reports of a teenage boy riding on the back of a whale.

A witness has told authorities that he saw the youngster climb on to a southern right whale near the town of Albany in Western Australia on Friday.

Harassing wildlife is an offence which carries a maximum penalty of A$10,000 (US$9,600).

Conservation authorities say such a stunt would be "foolhardy and reckless".

Mike Shephard from the local Department of Environment and Conservation said: "If you are in the way of a tail slap or when it breaches you are unlikely to survive."

Southern right whales can reach 18m in length and weigh up to 80 tonnes.

In a statement, Mr Shephard said these whales came close to shore to rest and to allow calves to gain strength in calm waters.

"Disturbance or physical contact with them, either deliberate or accidental, not only distresses the whales but also could result in a tragic outcome for a foolhardy person," he said.

Under Western Australian laws, boats must stay at least 100m away from whales while swimmers and surfers must be at a minimum distance of 30m.

The BBC's Phil Mercer says the legislation is meant to keep people away from migrating pods along Australia's east and west coasts.

On Monday, wildlife officers were seen patrolling Albany's beaches to remind people to keep their distance from the whales.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites