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Whale found dead in Amazon's tributary

After an attempt to capture and transport to the ocean a whale that got lost and swam some 1,300 kilometers (810 miles) up the Amazon River failed, the animal was found dead, an environmental official said Wednesday.

The 5.5-meter (18-foot) minke whale had become stranded on sandbars at least twice since it was first spotted last week in the Tapajos River, a tributary of the Amazon near the jungle city of Santarem.

A group of biologists and veterinarians managed to examine the animal on Sunday, but the whale got away and was found dead on Tuesday on a Tabajos River beach, said Nazarena Silva, an official with the Ibama environmental protection agency's Santarem office.

The group had been trying to contain the whale in a small area of river while arranging for a ship to take it back to sea.

Rescuers, including local residents, had to let the whale go Sunday before a net was secured around it because it became agitated and was at risk of injuring itself.

Scientists said whale was in the river for at least 15 days, and experts had expressed confidence it could survive because there have been cases of whales spending two months in fresh water.

Biologists conducted an autopsy on the whale and said they would determine the cause of death after receiving test results, Silva said. Authorities were making plans to transport the whale's carcass to the ocean.

The minke whale is the second smallest of the baleen whales after the pygmy right whale. The International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee estimates there are about 184,000 minke whales in the central and northeast Atlantic Ocean.

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