An operation to recover the beluga, a four-meter-long and around 800-kilo whale that was lost for a week in the Seine, a river in northern France, will be attempted Tuesday night, the prefecture said.
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At the end of this “extraordinary” operation, according to a specialist, the animal should be deposited in a seawater lock for a few days to be cared for before being taken to sea to be released.
The exceptional presence of this marine mammal in the Seine, some 130 kilometers from the river’s mouth in the English Channel, arouses great interest beyond French borders, with an influx of donations from foundations, associations and individuals to try to save it .
The whale, which normally lives in cold waters, was sighted on August 2 and as of Tuesday was still in the hot and stagnant waters of a lock 70 kilometers northwest of Paris, threatening its survival.
“An operation to transport the belugas lost in the Seine will be attempted this evening,” the prefecture, which is leading the operation to save the animal, told media.
Extraction was scheduled to begin at 20:00 (18:00 GMT) and the whales would need to be trucked to an unspecified destination.
A member of the Marineland team in Antibes (south-eastern France) who arrived on the scene on Monday evening said the operation was “extraordinary”.
In May, an orca got into trouble in the Seine. The attempt to save the whale had failed and the animal eventually died of starvation.
According to the Pelagis Observatory, which specializes in marine mammals, the beluga “has an arctic and subarctic distribution. Although the best-known population resides in the Saint Lawrence Estuary (Quebec), the closest to our shores is in Svalbard, an archipelago in northern Norway, 3000 kilometers from the Seine.
According to the same source, this is the second beluga known in France, after a fisherman from the Loire Estuary, the major river in the center of the country, raised one in his nets in 1948.