Ouistreham: An ailing beluga whale that strayed into France’s Seine river was put down by vets Wednesday during a last-ditch rescue attempt to keep the animal alive, local officials said. The fate of the whale captured the hearts of people across the world since it was first spotted in the highly unusual habitat of the river that flows through Paris, far from its usual Arctic waters. Rescuers had worked overnight to lift the male out of the Seine by crane for transfer to a saltwater pen, in a delicate, final effort to save the life of the ailing mammal, which was no longer eating.
Killer whale also died
This is the second drama involving a big marine mammal in an unexpected area to grip France in the last months. A sick killer whale — a member of the dolphin family also known as an orca — was spotted in the Seine in May but died after attempts failed to guide the animal back to the sea. Interest in the beluga’s fate has spread far beyond France, generating a large influx of financial donations and other aid from conservation groups as well as individuals, officials said.
While belugas migrate south in the autumn to feed as ice forms in their native Arctic waters, they rarely venture so far. According to France’s Pelagis Observatory, which specializes in sea mammals, the nearest beluga population is off the Svalbard archipelago, north of Norway, 3,000 kilometers from the Seine. The trapped whale is only the second beluga ever sighted in France. The first was pulled out of the Loire estuary in a fisherman’s net in 1948.