Paris – Marine experts say that there is little hope that a beluga stranded in the Seine in northern France can survive. The beluga was first spotted in the river last Tuesday, northwest of Paris.
Local police and fire departments were mobilized to monitor it, and they used drones to track its movements. As of Monday, it was about 40 miles northwest of the French capital, swimming slowly around a pool between two locks.
Vets called in by authorities have noted that the 13-foot-long whale appears thin and in poor health, leading many to conclude that it had likely been deteriorating for weeks.
Attempts to feed the whiting have been unsuccessful. Even after vets injected it with steroids and antibiotics, it still ignored the food offered.
A spokesperson for the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd, which had staff present at the scene, said it was possible the animal had been suffering from an illness for several weeks.
“Its lack of appetite is almost certainly a symptom of something else, something we don’t know about, an illness,” said Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France. “It’s malnourished and probably has been for weeks, or even months. It stopped eating while it was still at sea.”
However, the group noted that the beluga still showed curiosity about the activity around it and was still moving, albeit slowly. These factors have kept talk of culling the animal at bay, at least for now.
Authorities say an alternative is to try to move it to a calmer stretch of water for more extensive treatment, but that would be difficult and potentially dangerous for the marine mammal. Due to the animal’s poor health, many believe that it would be better to just continue to monitor it and let it live out its last days in the stretch of the Seine where it is.
The all-white beluga whales normally live in the cooler waters of Arctic and sub-Arctic seas. They have been known to migrate south, although they can only survive for a short time in freshwater rivers.
The Whites’ situation in the Seine has attracted a lot of attention in France. A sick killer whale died in the iconic river after being separated from its pod in May. Various attempts to guide the animal back to sea failed.