French authorities are to give vitamins to a starving beluga whale stranded in the Seine river near Paris after it refused food.
The whale was first spotted along the Seine on Tuesday, miles away from the colder Arctic waters it is used to, and has now swum 44 miles north of Paris.
By denying it the food it has been given, environmental experts worry they are in a “race against the clock” to save the beluga.
Lamya Essemlali, president of marine conservation group Sea Shepherd France, said: “It is really extremely thin. Its legs stick out. I don’t know if it’s already too late.”
Rescue crews have tried to feed the beluga frozen herring and live trout, but neither has accepted.
“It is quite emaciated and appears to be having trouble eating,” Isabelle Dorliat-Pouzet, a senior police officer in the Eure department in Normandy, which is overseeing the rescue operation, told a news conference.
She said they hope that injecting the beluga with vitamins will help stimulate its appetite.
Dorliat-Pouzet added that small spots had appeared on the whale’s whites, but it is not clear whether this is a result of the fresh water or a sign of health problems.
Authorities are still deciding the best course of action regarding the beluga’s return to the sea.
They are unsure whether to wait for the animal to regain its appetite in the waterway before leading it back to more familiar territory.
On Friday, Gerard Mauger of the GECC marine conversation society said that despite being a particularly social mammal, “it behaves like yesterday, it seems very intimidating. It only briefly rises to the surface, followed by long dives.”
Based on sonar recordings, it also emitted very few of the chirps and squawks the whales are known for, raising further concerns about the animal’s health.
Rescuers have been monitoring the beluga with two drones after it was discovered in the river at Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne.
Belugas normally live in Arctic and sub-Arctic seas, although they sometimes stray into more southerly waters and estuaries and can temporarily survive in fresh water.
It is not known why the animal has strayed so far from its natural habitat in colder Arctic waters, past the port of Rouen, and tens of miles up a busy waterway towards the French capital.
The public is encouraged to stay away from the animal.