Stranded beluga whale rescued from French Seine
A beluga whale that had been stranded for more than a week in the River Seine in northern France was pulled from the water early Wednesday in the first phase of an ambitious rescue operation to return it to sea.
After nearly six hours of work by dozens of divers and rescuers, the 800-pound (1,800-pound) cetacean was lifted from the river by a net and crane at around 4:00 AM (0200 GMT) and onto a barge under the immediate care of a dozen veterinarians, according to AFP journalists.
The beluga, a protected species commonly found in cold Arctic waters, will be placed in a refrigerated truck and transported to shore if tests show it is suitable enough, said Isabelle Dorliat-Pouzet, secretary general of the prefecture. euro.
“We are awaiting the results of the blood tests and ultrasounds and, depending on the results, a decision will be made whether or not he should make the way to sea,” she told a news conference near the river an hour later. the whale was taken out.
“As I speak to you, he is alive, he is on the barge, he survived. He is being treated,” Dorliat-Pouzet said.
“We could see that he is a man, that he is very underweight and that he has a few sores,” she added.
The four-meter whale was spotted more than a week ago en route to Paris and stranded about 130 kilometers (81 miles) inland from the Channel at Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne in Normandy.
Since Friday, the animal’s movement inland has been blocked by a lock in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, 70 kilometers northwest of Paris, and its health deteriorated after it refused to eat.
But the situation was “satisfactory,” Isabelle Brasseur of the Marineland marine park in southern France told AFP on Tuesday.
A seawater basin near a lock in the Channel Port of Ouistreham has been prepared for the animal, which will spend three days there under observation and treatment in preparation for its release into the open sea.
“We hope it has a better chance of survival there,” says conservation organization Sea Shepherd France, who is assisting the operation.
The beluga will be taken out to sea and released “far enough from shore” to regain its rightful place in nature, Dorliat-Pouzet said earlier.
‘A great day’
“Today is a great day for this beluga whale and for everyone involved in its rescue,” Sea Shepherd said on its website.
The “exceptional” operation to return it to sea is not without risk to the whale, which is already weakened and stressed, said Brasseur, part of a Marineland team sent to assist in the rescue.
“It could be that he dies now, during treatment, during the journey or at point B,” she said in Ouistreham.
The 24 divers involved in the operation and the rescuers handling the ropes had to try several times between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. to lure the animal into the nets to be lifted out of the water.
As preparations for the operation began, people gathered along the banks of the river to observe.
“I am hopeful that he will reach the sea and that he will not end up like the killer whale,” said Isabelle Rainsart, referring to an orca that was spotted in the Seine in May but later died.
“We’ll have to wait and see how the transport goes, but we may have already passed the difficult part,” added Rainsart, who first filmed the beluga on August 2 from her garden overlooking the river.
Interest in the beluga’s fate has spread far beyond France, leading to a large influx of financial donations and other assistance from both conservation groups and individuals, officials said.
While belugas migrate south in the fall to feed as ice forms in their native Arctic waters, they rarely venture that far.
According to the French Pelagis Observatory, which specializes in marine mammals, the closest beluga population is outside the Svalbard Archipelago, north of Norway, 3000 kilometers from the Seine.
The captive whale is only the second beluga ever sighted in France. The first was pulled from the mouth of the Loire in 1948 in a fishing net.
France prepares rescue of beluga to go astray in Seine
© 2022 AFP
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