France: Rescue team launches operation to extract stranded beluga whale

France: Rescue team launches operation to extract stranded beluga whale
Credit: Belga

An operation to extract a beluga whale stranded for a week in the Seine and held since Friday in a lock in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, began on Tuesday shortly before 10 p.m., according to the Prefecture of Eure, northwestern France.

The team of 24 divers from the gendarmerie and fire service gave a final briefing before heading to the lock to try to extract the beluga, which would then have to be transported by truck to Ouistreham (Calvados), a journalist from French news agency AFP reported.

“We will have done the maximum and the best possible,” the secretary general of the Prefecture of Eure, Isabelle Dorliat-Pouzet, told journalists late Tuesday afternoon.

However, the success of this operation was not “a foregone conclusion”, she added. It could generate stress “which is a factor of death” for the animal.

The beluga was still feeding “very little” and its state of health was “stationary,” according to Ms. Dorliat-Pouzet.

The exceptional presence of the marine animal in the Seine, just 70 km from Paris, has aroused great interest both within and beyond France’s borders. A member of the Marineland team in Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes), who arrived on the scene on Monday evening, said that the operation would be “out of the ordinary.”

Once transported by refrigerated truck to Ouistreham, the whale should be placed there for three days in a seawater lock, to receive care, before being taken offshore to be released.

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