Battle to save a weakened whale lost in the Seine
French conservationists were hoping to give a catch of herring to a worryingly thin beluga whale that strayed from its arctic habitat in the French Seine.
They fear the ethereal white mammal is slowly starving in the waterway that runs through Paris and beyond.
“We are clearly in a race against time,” said Lamya Essemlali, president of marine conservation group Sea Shepherd France.
“It’s really extremely thin. His bones are protruding. I don’t know if it’s already too late.
Conservationists hoped to spare the whale the fate of another, an orca, also known as a killer whale, which strayed and then died in the Seine in May.
The beluga was first spotted in the river earlier this week.
“It’s a pretty impressive animal, which is white (and) which seems calm. He does not seem stressed, resurfaces regularly,” Patrick Hérot, an officer with the Eure fire department in Normandy, told French television channel TF1.
But Sea Shepherd France said the whale appeared in poor condition when spotted on Friday. The group had a boat on the river, as well as drones, trying to monitor it – not a simple task with a mammal that can spend several minutes underwater.
Sea Shepherd France hoped to help the whale retain its strength by feeding it a catch of herring, Ms Essemlali said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
“We are very worried,” she said. “The urgency is to feed him.”
In ocean waters, belugas eat a variety of fish as well as octopus, squid, crabs, shrimp and other animals. But the freshwater river cannot meet its food needs.
“He can’t feed himself in the Seine,” said Ms Essemlali.
Rather than trying to coax the weakened whale back down river to sea, Sea Shepherd France is pushing for it to be captured, so it can then be flown back to the Arctic waters where it came from. probably, said Ms. Essemlali.
She said DNA testing could determine if it came from the waters around Norway, Canada or Russia.
“It’s logistically difficult, but it’s doable,” she said. “It will be a matter of will.”
“It will only be possible if we can feed it,” she added.
Authorities in the Eure region said the whale wandered a 25-mile stretch of river between two sets of locks northwest of Paris.
They also said the mammal appeared worryingly thin and was moving away from boats in hopes of guiding it towards the wide mouth of the river between the seaports of Le Havre and Honfleur.
“It is capable of spending long periods submerged and moving over long distances,” authorities in Eure said in a statement.
The pale skin and bulbous forehead of beluga whales make them easily recognizable. Also known for their sociability, they usually live, hunt and migrate together in groups.