French authorities say a beluga whale stranded for several days in the Seine River has died after it was successfully removed from the French waterway.
Veterinarian Ollivet Courtois said that during the rescue operation, the dangerously thin white mammal began to have breathing difficulties, and so experts decided to humanely euthanize the creature.
The whale was being prepared for transfer to a saltwater pool in Normandy. It was first spotted in the Seine last week after having accidentally veered off its normal path to the Arctic.
Conservation group Sea Shepherd France said veterinary exams after the beluga’s removal from the river showed it has no digestive activity. Veterinarians planned to try to re-stimulate its system.
The group posted from the rescue operation showing the white beluga lying on a big net. Plans had called for 24 people to move the huge marine mammal to a refrigerated truck for a drive to the Normandy coast. The whale was expected to spend several days recuperating in the saltwater pool before being towed out to sea.
The rescue team said ahead of time that the transfer carried a risk of the whale dying because of the stress involved in the process. However, the move was deemed necessary because the animal would not have been able to survive in much longer in the Seine’s fresh water.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
PARIS (AP) — A beluga whale stranded for days in the Seine River has been removed from the French waterway in preparation for a return to saltwater in hopes of saving its life.
The dangerously thin Arctic marine mammal was spotted in France last week. A conservation group said veterinary exams after the beluga was removed from the river showed it has no digestive activity for unknown reasons. Sea Shepherd France said veterinarians would try to re-stimulate its digestion.
Photos posted by Sea Shepherd France show the white beluga lying on a big net. The plan is to move it in a refrigerated truck to the Normandy coast where it can recover for a few more days before being towed out to sea.
The dangerously thin marine mammal has no digestive activity for unknown reasons, conservation group Sea Shepherd France tweeted, saying veterinary exams were done after the beluga was hauled out of water after hours of preparation.
The group said the beluga was a male with no infectious diseases and that veterinarians would try to re-stimulate the marine mammal’s digestion. Conservationists have tried unsuccessfully since Friday to feed fish to the beluga.
A veterinary team was planning to transport the 4-meter-long (13-foot-long) whale to a coastal spot in the northeastern French port town of Ouistreham for “a period of care,” according to Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France.
The delicate transport was to be made via a refrigerated truck for the approximately 160-kilometer (99-mile) trip.
Authorities were planning to keep the whale in its temporary saltwater home for two to three days of surveillance and treatment before being towed out to sea.
The lost beluga was first seen in France’s river, far from its Arctic habitat, last week. It weighs about 800 kilograms (1,764 pounds).
Authorities said that while the move carries its own mortality risk because of the stress on the animal, the whale couldn’t survive much longer in the Seine’s freshwater habitat.
They remain hopeful it will survive after it responded to a cocktail of antibiotics and vitamins administered in the last few days and rubbed itself on the lock’s wall to remove patches that had appeared on its back.