Beleaguered beluga still alive but 'stationary' in River Seine

·2 min read
AP - Francois Mori

The malnourished beluga whale that has made its way up the River Seine to within 70 kilometres of the French capital is no longer progressing but is still alive, the environmental group Sea Shepherd said on Monday. Hope that the animal can be saved is fading.

The animal was first spotted a week ago, in the river that runs through Paris to the English Channel. Belugas are normally found in salt water, inside the Arctic Circle.

The creature "is alert but not eating," Sea Shepherd France president Lamya Essemlali told the AFP news agency in a text message.

There has been "no worsening of its condition", she said. The animal remains seriously undernourished.

Although rescuers have tried feeding it frozen herring and then live trout, the animal has refused the food.

"His lack of appetite is surely a symptom of something else ... an illness. He is malnourished and this dates back weeks, if not months. He was no longer eating at sea," Essemlali said

"The euthanasia option has been ruled out for the moment, because at this stage it would be premature," she said.

Rescuers consider last-ditch bid

Since Friday the whale has been between two locks some 70 kilometres north of the French capital.

Rescuers are considering last-ditch efforts to extract the animal from the Seine as the river water is harming its health. Its fragile state makes such an undertaking dangerous.

One alternative would be to open the downstream lock gates in the hope that the beluga would swim towards the English Channel.

There is obviously the danger that the whale might move further upriver towards Paris.

Several attempts to feed the whale have failed.

On Saturday, veterinarians administered "vitamins and products to stimulate its appetite", said a statement on Sunday by the police in Normandy's Eure department, which is overseeing the rescue effort.

According to France's Pelagis marine observatory, the nearest beluga population is off the northern coast of Norway, 3,000 kilometres from the Seine.