‘Too weak’ beluga euthanized after being removed from French River

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PARIS — A beluga whale that captured French hearts when it showed up in the Seine had to be euthanized on Wednesday after being successfully removed from the French waterway, authorities said.

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A rescue team was preparing to transfer the whale to a saltwater pool in Normandy. The male marine mammal was first spotted in the Seine last week after accidentally veering off its normal arctic course.

During the rescue operation, the dangerously thin animal began to have difficulty breathing, so experts decided the most humane thing to do was to euthanize the creature.

Rescuers pull up a net after rescuing a beluga stranded in the Seine to bring it to a truck to take it to Ouistreham (Calvados), in Notre Dame de la-Garenne, in the north of France, on August 10, 2022. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images)
Rescuers pull up a net after rescuing a beluga stranded in the Seine to bring it to a truck to take it to Ouistreham (Calvados), in Notre Dame de la-Garenne, in the north of France, on August 10, 2022. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/- via Getty Images)

“During the journey, the veterinarians confirmed a worsening of his condition, in particular his respiratory activities, and at the same time noticed that the animal was in pain, not breathing enough,” said Florence Ollivet Courtois, French wildlife specialist. .

“The suffering was obvious to the animal, so it was important to release his tension, and so we had to euthanize him.”

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Conservation group Sea Shepherd France said veterinary examinations after the beluga was removed from the river showed it had no digestive activity. Members of the organization had been trying in vain since Friday to feed the whale with fish.

Courtois said the whale experienced distress after being moved in a refrigerated truck and during the roughly 160 kilometer (99 mile) journey to the Normandy coast.

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The whale was due to spend several days recovering in the saltwater pool in the port town of Ouistreham, in northeastern France, before being towed out to sea.

The rescue team said in advance that the transfer carried a risk of death for the whale due to the stress involved in the process. However, the move was deemed necessary because the animal could not have survived any longer in the fresh waters of the Seine.

“The decision to euthanize the beluga was taken because it was too weak to be released,” said Guillaume Lericolais, sub-prefect of France’s Calvados region.

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