Rescuers euthanize dangerously skinny beluga whale found in French river

Paris, France - A beluga whale that strayed into the Seine River last week has been lifted out in a huge rescue operation that took multiple hours, many helping hands, and a crane.

Rescuers watch as the beluga whale is pulled from the Seine River with a huge net.
Rescuers watch as the beluga whale is pulled from the Seine River with a huge net.  © REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

"After many hours of preparation and effort, the beluga was taken out of the water," the conservation group Sea Shepherd France wrote on Twitter early Wednesday morning.

The animal is being examined and will be taken to the northeastern French port town of Ouistreham. Isabelle Dorliat-Pouzet, the deputy prefect of the town of Evreux, told BFMTV that the whale will stay in its temporary home and receive treatment.

The white whale was located in the Seine River about 40 miles from Paris over the weekend. "It is terribly thin for a beluga and that does not bode well for its medium-term life expectancy," said Dorliat-Pouzet.

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Conservationists have been attempting to feed the dangerously skinny whale since Friday, but so far, their efforts have been unsuccessful. Experts think the 13-foot-long creature is sick.

Authorities decided to launch the rescue operation because the whale won't survive much longer in the river's fresh water.

The beluga rescue opperation was huge

The beluga whale swimming in the Seine River.
The beluga whale swimming in the Seine River.  © REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/Pool

The rescue operation took around 80 people, including 20 divers. It started at 10:00 PM and took about six hours.

The whale is now in a refrigerated truck with a medical team. It's being kept moist with towels, and will be taken to a seawater tank in Ouistreham, which is 99 miles from where the whale was pulled. Due to the heat in France, the creature won't be moved until nightfall, according to the Associated Press.

Sea Shepherd France posted photos of the large-scale rescue operation, showing the beluga being pulled from the Seine in a net supported by steel chains and hefted by a huge crane. The whale reportedly weighs about 1,764 pounds.

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This isn't the first time a whale has strayed into the French river, but this time everyone is hoping the outcome will be less tragic. In May, an orca starved to death after a week-long odyssey in the Seine.

Conservationists hope to tow the beluga back out to the open sea once they determine what's wrong with the animal and do what they can to help.

Update, August 10, 5:40 AM ET: Beluga whale removed from French river has been euthanized

The beluga whale rescue workers successfully pulled from the Seine river earlier this morning had to be euthanized. The medical team was preparing to move the whale to Ouistreham, when the dangerously thin whale began to have breathing difficulties. The authorities decided that the most humane thing to do would be to euthanize the animal, per the Associated Press.

Florence Ollivet Courtois, a French animal expert, said, "During the journey, the veterinarians confirmed a worsening of its state, notably its respiratory activities, and at the same time noticed the animal was in pain, not breathing enough. The suffering was obvious for the animal, so it was important to release its tension, and so we had to proceed to euthanize it."

Sea Shepherd France shared the sad news of the whale's death on Twitter, writing, "It is with a heavy heart that we announce that the beluga did not survive the relocation which was risky, but essential to give a chance to an otherwise doomed animal. Due to the deterioration of its condition, the veterinarians have decided to euthanize it."

Cover photo: Collage: Screenshot/Twitter/SeaShepherdFran

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