French authorities are working on a delicate plan to transport a beluga lost in the Seine back to sea, an expert said on Tuesday.
The 4meterlong mammal was spotted a week ago and appears to be ill and very thin, but its condition is “satisfactory,” Isabelle Brasseur of Marineland marine animal park in southern France, the largest in Europe, told AFP. .
“We have an idea of something that might work, we’re going to explain and improve it with the people who are going to help us,” he said.
Belugas are a protected white whale species that cannot survive long in fresh water.
The animal is currently about 130 kilometers from the English Channel in SaintPierrelaGarenne in Normandy, trapped between two locks water elevators that let ships go up and down about 80 kilometers north of the French capital.
The idea is to take the beluga overland to an undisclosed seawater tank for release. But the difficulties are considerable, and the journey is likely to put even more strain on the 800kilogram mammal.
Sea Shepherd France, an NGO involved in the operation, said in a statement Tuesday that sedation is not an option as the belugas need to be awake to breathe air.
“Anyway, we need to get her out of there and try to figure out what’s going on,” Brasseur said.
Veterinarians constantly monitor the condition of the animal during the transfer.
“There may be internal issues that we can’t see,” Brasseur said, although he added that belugas are an “extremely hardy” species.
Sea Shepherd has requested donations of heavy rope, nets, mattresses and other equipment.
Belugas generally live in cold arctic waters, and although they migrate south to forage in the fall, they rarely venture that far.
According to the French Pelagis Observatory, which specializes in marine mammals, the densest population of belugas is in the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway, 3,000 kilometers from the Seine.
The beluga found in the Seine is stable but still not eating