Rescuers to move whale stranded in French river

  • In this image, taken Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022 by environmental group Sea Shepherd, shows a Beluga whale in the Seine river in Notre Dame de la Garenne, west of Paris. French environmentalists said Monday efforts to feed a dangerously thin Beluga whale that has strayed into the Seine River have failed so far. Experts are now seeking ways to get the animal out of the river lock where it is now stuck. (Sea Shepherd via AP)

  • Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France, stands next to the lock of Notre Dame de la Garenne where a Beluga whale is being prepared to be moved, in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, west of Paris, France, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. French environmentalists are moving a dangerously think Beluga that had strayed into the Seine River last week to a salt-water river basin to try and save its life. Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France, said the ethereal white mammal measuring... Aurelien Morissard

  • French fire brigade and Sea Sheperds members gather near the lock of Notre Dame de la Garenne where a Beluga whale is being prepared to be moved, in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, west of Paris, France, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. French environmentalists are moving a dangerously think Beluga that had strayed into the Seine River last week to a salt-water river basin to try and save its life. Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France, said the ethereal white mammal measuring 4-meters... Aurelien MORISSARD

  • News members and onlookers wait near the lock of Notre Dame de la Garenne where a Beluga whale is being prepared to be moved, in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, west of Paris, France, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. French environmentalists are moving a dangerously think Beluga that had strayed into the Seine River last week to a salt-water river basin to try and save its life. Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France, said the ethereal white mammal measuring 4-meters will be transported... Aurelien MORISSARD

  • General view of the lock of Notre Dame de la Garenne where a Beluga whale is being prepared to be moved, in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, west of Paris, France, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. French environmentalists are moving a dangerously think Beluga that had strayed into the Seine River last week to a salt-water river basin to try and save its life. Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France, said the ethereal white mammal measuring 4-meters will be transported to the salty water... Aurelien Morissard

Associated Press
Published: 8/9/2022 8:27:54 PM
Modified: 8/9/2022 8:24:37 PM

PARIS — French environmentalists prepared Tuesday to move a beluga whale that strayed into the Seine River last week to a saltwater basin in Normandy, hoping to save the life of the dangerously thin marine mammal.

A medical team plans to transport the 13-foot-long whale to a coastal spot in the northeastern French port town of Ouistreham for “a period of care,” according to Lamya Essemlali, president of the conservation group Sea Shepherd France.

Experts think the whale is sick and in a race against time for survival, she said.

The whale would remain in its temporary saltwater home for “two to three days” of surveillance and treatment before being towed out to sea, according to Isabelle Dorliat Pouzet, deputy prefect of the town of Evreux.

“Then, nature will take its course,” Pouzet said. “We have to be optimistic... the work has been painstakingly prepared.”

A team of some 80 people, including veterinarians and environmentalists, gathered Tuesday near a Seine River lock in the Eure region to plot the exodus of the new local celebrity.

Conservations groups said it would take 24 people to load the beluga into a refrigerated truck for the approximately 100-mile trip to Ouistreham, describing the the saltwater transfer as an “enormous operation.”

Because the region is experiencing extreme heat, the team planned to wait until nightfall before moving the ethereal white creature. It weighs about 800 kilograms.

Rescuers hope to spare the whale the fate of an orca that strayed into the Seine and died in May.

Authorities said that while the move carries its own mortality risk because of the stress on the animal, the whale can’t survive much longer in the Seine’s freshwater habitat.

They remain hopeful it will survive after it responded to a cocktail of antibiotics and vitamins administered in the last few days and rubbed itself on the lock’s wall to remove patches that had appeared on its back.

Sea Shepherd’s Essemlali said medical surveillance at the saltwater basin would help establish whether whale “is suffering from something we can help it with or from an incurable illness.”

Drone footage shot by French fire services last week showed the whale meandering into a stretch of the Seine between Paris and the Normandy city of Rouen that is far inland from the sea.

Conservationists have tried unsuccessfully since Friday to feed fish to the beluga. Sea Shepherd fears the whale is slowly starving in the waterway.


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