Paris — Marine experts say there’s little hope that a beluga whale stranded in the Seine river in northern France can survive. The beluga was first spotted in the river last Tuesday, northwest of Paris.
Local police and fire services 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 around slowly in a basin between two locks.
Veterinarians called in by the authorities have noted that the 13-foot-long whale appears thin and in poor health, leading many to conclude that it likely had been deteriorating for several weeks.
Efforts to feed the beluga have been unsuccessful. Even after vets injected it with steroids and antibiotics, it still ignored the food being offered.
A spokesperson for the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd, which has had staff present at the site, 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 is undernourished and likely has been for several weeks, or even months. It stopped eating while it was still at sea.”
The group noted however that the beluga was still showing curiosity about the activity around it and was still moving, albeit slowly. Those factors have kept talk of euthanizing the animal at bay, at least for now.
Authorities say one option is to try to move it to a quieter stretch of water for more extensive treatment, but that would be difficult and potentially dangerous to the sea mammal. Due to the animal’s poor health, many believe it would be better to just continue monitoring it and allow it to 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 oceans. They have been known to venture south, although they can only survive for a short while in freshwater rivers.
The plight of the beluga in the Seine has captured widespread attention in France. A sick orca died in the iconic river after being separated from its pod in May. Various attempts to guide that animal back to sea failed.