A stranded and starving beluga whale lifted from the French river Seine had to be euthanized on its way back to the sea Wednesday.
The all-white beluga whales normally live in social groups called pods and hail from the Arctic and subarctic seas. The lost whale was first seen in the Seine heading toward Paris on Aug. 2.
From there, the whale was stopped from further moving by a lock on the river in Normandy, 43 miles northwest of Paris, and its health continued to worsen as it refused to eat. Rescuers believe the animal was already sick, according to Reuters.
The decision was made to retrieve the whale from the river. Exposure to the warm freshwater of the river would be inevitably fatal for beluga whales, who are habituated for cold saltwater environments.
“(The operation) was risky, but essential to give a chance to an otherwise doomed animal,” Sea Sheperd France, a conservation group, told Reuters.
The whale was lifted from the river by crane over the course of six hours Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. At this point, the whale weighed 1,763 pounds, nearly 900 pounds below its normal weight, according to France24.
The plan was to have the beluga whale recuperate in a saltwater basin in Normandy before being released to the wild, but its health continued to deteriorate. Attempts made to feed fish to the malnourished whale were unsuccessful.
Unable to breathe on its journey to the sea, the rescuers made the choice to euthanize the beluga whale.
“We were able to see that the animal was in anoxia — ie, insufficiently ventilated — so this animal was obviously suffering and we decided that it was pointless to release it and so we had to proceed with its euthanasia,” Florence Olivet Courtois, a veterinarian with a Normandy fire and rescue service, said in a video message from officials quoted by CNN.
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