Beluga whale stuck in Seine might be transported back to sea

Sighting of whale in river, animal news
Beluga whale lost in France's Seine river, France, August 8, 2022. credit: Reuters/Benoit Tessier

French authorities are considering to transport the beluga whale, lost in France’s Seine river, back to sea. They might also keep the whale in a salt-water tank to nurse him back to health, officials said on Monday.

The Seine is a 777-kilometre-long (483 miles) river in northern France. It flows through Paris and into the English Channel at Le Havre. The whale was first seen in the river a week ago.

Since Friday, the whale has been between two locks around 70 kilometres (44 miles) north of Paris. The river’s warm water is harming his health. He is swimming slowly and has received vitamins and antibiotics over the weekend.

“The beluga is still not eating, but he keeps being curious. Antibiotics have helped as well,” environmental group Sea Shepherd France said on Facebook on Monday.

Beluga whales

“He has to be moved in the coming 24-48 hours. These conditions are not good for him,” Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France, said. “We are all doubtful about his own ability to return to the sea.”

Usually, belugas live in cold Arctic waters. They rarely swim as far as this whale has been swimming. According to France’s Pelagis Observatory, the nearest beluga population is off the Svalbard archipelago, north of Norway, 3,000 kilometres from the Seine.

“Seeing animals like that in the Seine, with global warming and all that, makes you wonder why this is happening and how come he manages to swim that far up (the river), on his own,” Jean-Claude Ozanne, a citizen who was watching the beluga, said. “It’s true that it is strange.”

A few months ago, a killer whale became stranded in the Seine and was later found dead between Le Havre and Rouen. An autopsy found the animal had likely suffered exhaustion after being unable to eat.

A bullet was also found nestled in the base of his skull, officials said, adding that they didn’t know if that was part of the reason the whale died.

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