PARIS (AP) — French authorities say a beluga whale stranded for several days in the Seine River has died after it was successfully removed from the French waterway.
The whale was being prepared for transfer to a saltwater pool in Normandy.
Veterinarian Ollivet Courtois said that during the rescue operation, the dangerously thin white mammal began to have breathing difficulties, and so experts decided to humanely euthanize the creature.
The whale, which became a local celebrity, was first spotted last week having accidentally veered off its normal path to the Arctic.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
A veterinary team was planning to transport the 4-meter-long (13-foot-long) whale to a coastal spot in the northeastern French port town of Ouistreham for “a period of care,” according to Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France.
The delicate transport was to be made via a refrigerated truck for the approximately 160-kilometer (99-mile) trip.
Authorities were planning to keep the whale in its temporary saltwater home for two to three days of surveillance and treatment before being towed out to sea.
The lost beluga was first seen in France’s river, far from its Arctic habitat, last week. It weighs about 800 kilograms (1,764 pounds).
Authorities said that while the move carries its own mortality risk because of the stress on the animal, the whale couldn’t survive much longer in the Seine’s freshwater habitat.
They remain hopeful it will survive after it responded to a cocktail of antibiotics and vitamins administered in the last few days and rubbed itself on the lock’s wall to remove patches that had appeared on its back.