Beluga whale stranded in Seine given vitamin injection in last-ditch rescue attempt

·3 min read
The whale was first seen swimming in the Seine on Aug 2, and is now around 43 miles from Paris - Jean-Francois Monier/AFP via Getty Images
The whale was first seen swimming in the Seine on Aug 2, and is now around 43 miles from Paris - Jean-Francois Monier/AFP via Getty Images

Experts in France have made a last-ditch attempt to save a Beluga whale stranded in the river Seine by injecting it with a vitamin-infused dart that will entice it to eat.

Time is running out for the emaciated whale, which has been stranded in the Seine for at least a week. First spotted on August 2, it is now around 43 miles from Paris, far from its natural habitat of Arctic and sub-Arctic waters.

The vitamin dart was proposed after attempts to strengthen the starving whale with frozen herring and live trout failed when it refused to feed.

The solution in the injection also contained antibiotics and an appetite stimulant, with the new attempts to feed the whale continuing on Sunday.

“He has to be moved in the coming 24 to 48 hours – these conditions are not good for him,” Lamya Essemlali, the head of the Sea Shepherd France marine conservation group, told AFP on Sunday.

Along with the injection, experts have considered the possibility of opening up the locks and leading the whale 100 miles back out into the open sea.

The locks were closed at the request of Sea Shepherd, which has been tracking the mammal, in order to prevent it from swimming further inland. But the longer it stays in stagnant freshwater, the less likely it is that it will be able to make the long and exhausting journey.

“We are all doubtful about its own ability to return to the sea,” said Ms Essemlali. “Even if we drove it with a boat, that would be extremely dangerous, if not impossible.”

Lamya Essemlali and colleagues look on from the banks of the Seine as attempts to rescue the beluga whale continue - Jean-Francois Monier/AFP via Getty Images
Lamya Essemlali and colleagues look on from the banks of the Seine as attempts to rescue the beluga whale continue - Jean-Francois Monier/AFP via Getty Images
Drones flying above Seine have been used to monitor the whale’s movements - Pascal Rossignol/Reuters
Drones flying above Seine have been used to monitor the whale’s movements - Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

On Sunday, Sea Shepherd France issued an update on Twitter, saying that although the severely underweight whale continues to reject food, it is alert and dynamic, and that therefore euthanasia would be premature at this point.

On Saturday, the 13ft whale was seen swimming “calmly” back and forth in the basin between two locks in the Seine. As well as being worryingly lean, spots on the whale’s skin also suggest illness.

Isabelle Dorliat-Pouzet, the secretary general of the Eure prefecture in northwestern France, ruled out a direct intervention and extracting the whale from the waters, saying it was too weak to survive an aggressive rescue mission.

Ms Dorliat-Pouzet added that decisions would be made in the best interest of the mammal, but nothing had yet been confirmed.

In May, a sick orca became separated from its pod and was spotted swimming in the river between Le Havre and Honfleur. The orca later died, with the immediate cause found to have been starvation.

Ms Essemlali said one possible explanation for whales straying far from home and into the Seine could be the rise of noise pollution generated by human activity.