France whale: Hopes fading for lost mammal stuck in River Seine

France whale: Hopes fading for lost mammal stuck in River Seine
France whale: Hopes fading for lost mammal stuck in River Seine

Africa-Press – Angola. French rescuers desperately trying to save a beluga whale trapped in the River Seine say there is little hope it will survive.

Rescuers had hoped to help the lost whale regain its appetite and the energy needed to return to sea.

The visibly malnourished mammal was first spotted in the river on Tuesday, around 70km (44 miles) north of Paris.

After failed attempts to encourage it to swim out, rescuers are pessimistic about its chances of survival.

So far rescuers have offered up frozen herring and live trout for the four-metre whale to eat, but the animal does not appear to have accepted either.

Authorities have considered injecting the stranded animal with vitamins will stimulate its appetite and help it to make the long 160km (100 mile) return journey back up the river and out to the English Channel, where it can swim back to its Arctic habitat.

But leaving it in the warm stagnant water between the lock gates is no longer an option.

“He has to be moved in the coming 24 to 48 hours, these conditions are not good for him,” Sea Shepherd France head Lamya Essemlali told the AFP news agency.

Specialists are holding out “little hope” for the visibly underweight whale, Ms Essemlali said.

“We are all doubtful about its own ability to return to the sea,” she said. “Even if we ‘drove’ it with a boat, that would be extremely dangerous, if not impossible.”

However, “euthanasia” has been ruled out for now, she added.

Officials said on Saturday that small spots had appeared on the whale’s skin, but it was not clear yet whether this was a reaction to the fresh water of the River Seine – as opposed to its natural salt water habitat – or a sign of the animal’s deteriorating health.

Scientific observers said the whale was behaving skittishly, rising to the surface only briefly, and emitting fewer of the songs expected of a whale – raising further concerns over its wellbeing.

Experts are puzzled how the whale managed to stray so far from its natural habitat – the cold waters of the Arctic and sub-Arctic.

Belugas occasionally venture south in the autumn to feed as ice forms, but it is rare for them to travel so far from their native home. But similar stories are not unheard of.

In May, a killer whale was found dead after swimming up the River Seine in Normandy. A plan to guide the four-metre male orca back to the sea using sound stimuli failed, and experts later concluded it was seriously ill.

In 2019, a dead whale was found in the River Thames near Gravesend, UK officials said.

This came just weeks after a humpback whale seen swimming in the same stretch of water had died. It was thought to have found its way into the Thames because of a navigational error, possibly during high tides.

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