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Stranded beluga whale lifted out of river Seine at start of return trip to sea

By Paul Myers - RFI
Europe  JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIERAFP
AUG 10, 2022 LISTEN
© JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP

The beluga whale stranded in the river Seine in northern France for a week was removed from the water on Wednesday morning in the first stage of an ambitious rescue operation.

The beluga whale stranded in the river Seine in northern France for a week was removed from the water on Wednesday morning in the first stage of an ambitious rescue operation.

Nearly 80 people worked for six hours from Tuesday night to lure the 800kg mammal into a net before it was lifted out of the river by crane and placed on a barge.

The beluga, a protected species usually found in cold Arctic waters, will next be placed in a refrigerated truck and taken by road to a seawater basin at a lock in the port of Ouistreham in north-western France

Tests
It is expected to spend three days there undergoing tests to  prepare for release into the open sea.

The four-metre whale was spotted more than a week ago heading towards Paris and was stranded some 130 kilometres inland from the Channel at Saint-Pierre-La-Garenne in the Eure region of north-western France.

"It is better to attempt the evacuation of the beluga than not to attempt it," said Isabelle Dorliat-Pouzet, secretary general of the Eure prefecture.

Since Friday, the animal's movement inland has been blocked by a lock at Saint-Pierre-La-Garenne, 70 kilometres north-west of Paris, and its health had deteriorated after it refused to eat.

Isabelle Brasseur of the Marineland sea animal park and research centre in Antibes southern France, said the operation to return it to the sea is not without risk for the whale.

"It could be that he dies now, during the handling, during the journey or at point B," she said.

Lamya Essemlali, president of the marine conservation group  Sea Shepherd France, added: "Medical surveillance will help to establish whether the whale is suffering from something we can help it with or from an incurable illness.”

A statement from group added: "A huge THANK YOU to all those who have been sending us encouragement and words of support.

"They go straight to our hearts and support the morale of our teams mobilised with the beluga for several days."

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