White whale fails to survive river rescue in heart of France

A beluga whale stranded in the Seine for more than a week died yesterday despite an “unprecedented” six-hour rescue operation to free it from waters 70km from Paris.

The rescue of the starving 820kg whale – a protected species normally found in Arctic waters – involved 25 divers, cranes, a net, scores of volunteers, a dozen marine vets and a refrigerated truck.

Onlookers gathered in the early hours of Wednesday as rescuers using ropes tried repeatedly to lure the whale into the nets so it could be hoisted out of the river.

Eventually they managed to lift the whale out of the water onto a waiting barge – where it was immediately attended to by 12 waiting vets, who described its condition as “alarming”.

The animal couldn’t get enough air and was visibly suffering

The distressed 13-foot whale was euthanized in the truck, which was traveling at slow speed to the port of Ouistreham, shortly after the nearly 100-mile journey back to the Normandy coast.

A seawater pool had been prepared for the whale, which could not survive in the fresh water of the Seine. There it was to remain under observation for several days before being released back into the sea.

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The captured beluga was carefully heaved out of the river

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce that the beluga did not survive,” said conservation group Sea Shepherd France, which was involved in the rescue.

Officials in northern France had warned that the whale was in poor health and very thin. Florence Ollivet-Courtois, a veterinarian with the local rescue service, said “the animal was not getting enough air and was clearly suffering” when it arrived at the port.

“We have therefore decided that there is no point in releasing it and have proceeded to euthanasia,” added Ms. Ollivet-Courtois.

In addition to breathing issues, vets noted that the beluga suffered from digestive issues, which explained why it wasn’t eating.

“The beluga is a male that doesn’t have a contagious disease but has lost digestive activity, which explains why he’s stopped eating,” vets said.

Over the weekend, the whale was shot at with a vitamin-enriched dart after it refused to eat frozen herring and live trout offered to it by rescuers.

The operation to save the beluga whale was known to be very risky. Before the rescue attempt, Isabelle Brasseur, part of a team sent from a marine animal park to help, warned: “It could be that he dies now, during handling, during the journey or at point B.”

The whale was spotted heading towards Paris more than a week ago before being stranded about 100km inland at Saint Pierre la Garenne in Normandy.

Its progress was then blocked by a lock 70km northwest of the capital on Friday, prompting a thrilling race against time to save the stricken creature.

While belugas are known to migrate south in the fall to feed when ice is forming in their native arctic waters, they rarely venture so far into waters this warm.

The captured whale is only the second beluga ever sighted in France. The first was pulled in a fishing net from the Loire Estuary in 1948.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/white-whale-fails-to-survive-river-rescue-in-the-heart-of-france-41903936.html White whale fails to survive river rescue in heart of France

Fry Electronics Team

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