September 29, 2022

Belugas are a protected species that cannot survive for long in fresh water.

French officials are pursuing a delicate plan to transport a beluga whale back to the ocean after it swam far up the Seine River toward Paris, endangering its life, a marine expert said Tuesday.


The four-meter-long cetacean was discovered a week ago and appears sick and underweight, but his condition is “satisfactory,” Isabelle Brasseur of the Marineland marine animal park in southern France, Europe’s largest, told AFP.

“As of this morning we have an idea of ​​something that could work, we are going to explain and refine it with the people who are going to help us,” she said.

Belugas are a protected species that cannot survive for long in fresh water.

It is currently located approximately 130 kilometers inland from the Channel at Saint-Pierre-La-Garenne in Normandy.

“The exceptional thing here is that the banks of the Seine are not accessible to vehicles… everything will have to be done by hand,” said Brasseur.

It’s stuck behind a lock and can’t go any further inland – now some 50 miles from the French capital – but won’t turn back, and officials warn attempts to “push” the beluga back to sea are not viable.

The idea is to take the beluga by road to an undisclosed seawater basin where it can be treated before being released.

But the challenges are significant, and the journey is likely to cause an animal weighing 800 kilograms (almost 1,800 pounds) even more stress.

The Sea Shepherd France NGO, which is assisting the operation, said in a statement Tuesday that anesthesia was not an option because belugas are so-called “voluntary breathers” who must be awake to breathe air.

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Call for donations

“In any case, we need to get it out of there… and try to figure out what’s going on,” Brasseur said.

Vets will monitor constantly during the move.

“There may be internal issues that we can’t see,” she said, despite the fact that belugas as a species are “extremely hardy.”

Sea Shepherd has appealed for donations of heavy ropes, nets, mattresses and other equipment.

Belugas are normally only found in cold Arctic waters, and although they migrate south in the fall to feed as ice, 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.


Beluga whale now stands still in Seine: NGO


© 2022 AFP

Quote: France prepares ‘exceptional’ rescue of beluga astray in Seine (2022, 9 August), retrieved 9 August 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-france-readies-exceptional-beluga- astray.html

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