AIn the end he was too weak. The beluga whale, which got lost in a Seine lock in north-western France just under a week ago, had to be put down on Wednesday despite the rescue operation. Completely emaciated due to lack of food intake, he no longer had enough strength to be lowered into the water again, the prefecture of the Calvados department justified the decision. “The suffering was obvious to the animal,” added veterinarian Florence Ollivet-Courtois with a concerned expression in front of the camera. It came sick into the Seine.
A costly rescue operation
The male, around four meters long and weighing 800 kilograms, had previously been lifted out of the lock on Wednesday night, which is more than a hundred kilometers from the mouth of the Seine in the English Channel. Several dozen firefighters, police officers, veterinarians, divers and lifeguards were involved in the action. It lasted six hours because it wasn’t easy to lure the beluga into nets. When it finally succeeded at around 4 a.m., it hung in the air for a few minutes and was then set down on a barge. Then veterinarians started a health check. Sea Shepherd animal rights activists said he had no digestive activity and could no longer eat. So try to get your digestion going again. Previous attempts to feed the animal dead herring and then live trout had failed.
It quickly became clear that the whale’s chances of survival were not good. Nevertheless, the prefecture, veterinarians and animal rights activists left no stone unturned and organized a refrigerated truck transport to the coastal town of Ouistreham. The plan was to take care of the whale there in a seawater lock for several days and then release it back into the open sea once it had recovered. But the last chances quickly disappeared. The condition worsened after the crossing, said the veterinarian Ollivet-Courtois. In the end, the beluga was only able to breathe insufficiently.
Whales in inland waters are rare
It is not an everyday occurrence for a whale to get lost in French inland waters, despite thousands of kilometers of coastline. A beluga was first sighted off the Loire Estuary in 1948, according to the French marine observatory Pelagis. An orca, on the other hand, only swam in the Seine between Rouen and Le Havre in May. He too was starving and could not be saved.
In Germany, there are reports of a beluga from the 17th century and only afterwards from May 1966. “White whale in the Rhine” was the headline in the FAZ at the time after the animal had swum upriver from the Netherlands to Duisburg-Wanheim. Many onlookers were drawn to the shore. However, just two days later the newspaper said “Moby Dick has gone into hiding”: Attempts to catch the beluga, involving Bundeswehr pioneers, first failed, then the waterway police lost the trail. In June he appeared again in front of the Bonn government district before disappearing back into the sea via Rotterdam.