A beluga whale which transfixed France after straying into the river Seine has been euthanized after its already ailing condition deteriorated during an unprecedented rescue mission to save it, local authorities said Wednesday.
"Despite an unprecedented rescue operation for the beluga, we are sad to announce the death of the cetacean," the prefect of the Calvados department said on Twitter.
After nearly six hours of work, the 800-kg cetacean was lifted from the river by a net and crane at around 4:00 am (0200 GMT) on Wednesday and placed on a barge under the immediate care of a dozen veterinarians.
But the whale, whose already poor condition deteriorated during transportation, was put down after it began having difficulty breathing. A beluga whale of this size should normally weigh around 1,200 kg.
The all-white beluga, a protected species usually found in cold Arctic waters, was lifted from the river by crane and placed in a refrigerated lorry to take it to the coastal town of Ouistreham, where it was to be placed in a salt water lock for observation.
The four-meter (13-foot) whale was spotted more than a week ago heading towards Paris and was stranded some 130 kilometers (80 miles) inland from the Channel at Saint-Pierre-La-Garenne in Normandy.
Since Friday, the animal’s movement inland had been blocked by a lock at Saint-Pierre-La-Garenne, 70 kilometers northwest of Paris, and its health had deteriorated after it refused to eat.
The 24 divers involved in the operation and the rescuers handling the ropes had to try several times between 10:00pm and 4:00am to lure the animal into the nets to be lifted out of the water.
The beluga whale’s rescue transfixed France, prompting nationwide coverage of its removal from the Seine river.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)