Beluga whale rescued from river euthanized after it refused food and lost 800 pounds

Beluga whale rescued from river euthanized after it refused food and lost 800 pounds
A beluga whale had to be euthanized en route to a saltwater pool in Normandy after being stuck at a freshwater lock for days (Twitter/@TRTWorldNow)

NORMANDY, FRANCE: A beluga whale that was rescued after being stuck in France's Seine river for over a week reportedly died in transit back to the sea, officials confirmed on Tuesday, August 9.

The 13-foot cetacean had to be euthanized while on its way to a saltwater pool in Normandy after being stuck at St-Pierre-La-Garenne – a freshwater lock 45 miles northwest of Paris – since August 2. According to the conservation group Sea Shepherd France, the whale's health quickly deteriorated after it refused food. It was weighing around 1,800 pounds, at least 800 pounds underweight, and veterinary exams found no digestive activity. French officials injected vitamins into the all-white beluga on Saturday, August 6, hoping to revive its appetite and strength, but rescuers described its condition as alert but not eating on Monday, August 8.

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According to Reuters, it took eighty rescue workers about six hours to remove the animal from the dock in a combined effort. The whale was kept in a barge as it was examined by scientists, who concluded that the weight loss it had suffered was too severe to let it back out into the deep waters. The beluga was ultimately euthanized in transit, as confirmed by French media outlets and a video by the Essonne Department Fire and Rescue Service. 

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"During the trip, the veterinarians noted a deterioration in its condition, particularly in its respiratory activity, and we were able to see that the animal was in pain, not breathing enough," Florence Ollivet-Courtois, a veterinarian at the fire and rescue service, said in a statement. "The suffering was obvious for the animal, so it was important to release its tension."

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Vets had previously hoped to transport the whale to the Normandy coast and ultimately release it into the sea. It was weighing around 1,764 pounds when it should have been about 2,646 pounds. The beluga whale's natural habitat is in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. While the best-known population is found in the St Lawrence estuary in Quebec, Canada, the closest source from the French coast is Svalbard, an archipelago in northern Norway, about 1,900 miles from the Seine, CNN reported.

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While it's unclear how the sea giant lost its way, marine life officials believe sea ice loss in Arctic waters is opening the area up to more shipping, fishing, and other human activities, which has affected the whales' ability to communicate and navigate.


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According to WWF, the species is also facing difficulties in finding food and searching for mates. In May, an orca swam up to the Seine after being separated from its pod. Rescuers were unable to lure it out to sea, and the whale later died of natural causes. Many species of marine life have been reported in France in recent years, far from their primary habitat. According to France's Pelagis Observatory, which specializes in the study of sea mammals, there could be several reasons for the phenomena, including health status, age, social isolation, and environmental conditions, among others.

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