PARIS (AP) — French conservationists prepared on Tuesday to move a beluga whale that strayed into the Seine last week to a saltwater pool in Normandy, hoping to save the dangerously thin marine mammal’s life. .
A medical team plans to transport the 4-meter-long (13-foot-long) whale to a coastal site in the port city of Ouistreham, in northeastern France, for “a period of care”, according to Lamya Essemlali , chair of the conservation group. Sea Shepherd France.
Experts believe the whale is sick and in a race against time for survival, she said.
The whale would remain in its temporary saltwater habitat for “two to three days” of monitoring and treatment before being towed out to sea, according to Isabelle Dorliat Pouzet, deputy prefect of the city of Evreux.
“Then nature will take its course,” Pouzet said. “We have to be optimistic…the work has been carefully prepared.”
A team of some 80 people, including veterinarians and environmentalists, met on Tuesday near a lock on the Seine in the Eure to plan the exodus of the new local celebrity.
Conservation groups said it would take 24 people to load the beluga into a refrigerated truck for the roughly 160 kilometer (99 mile) journey to Ouistreham, describing the saltwater transfer as a ‘huge operation’ .
Because the area is experiencing extreme heat, the team plans to wait until nightfall before moving the ethereal white creature. It weighs about 800 kilograms (1,764 pounds).
Rescuers hope to spare the whale the fate of an orca who got lost in the Seine and died in May.
Authorities have said that while the move carries its own risk of mortality due to stress on the animal, the whale cannot survive much longer in the freshwater habitat of the Seine.
They hope he survives after responding to a cocktail of antibiotics and vitamins administered in recent days and scrubbing the lock wall to remove the stains that had appeared on his back.
Sea Shepherd’s Essemlali said medical monitoring in the saltwater tank would help establish whether the whale is “suffering from something we can help it with or from an incurable disease”.
Drone footage shot by French firefighters last week showed the whale meandering through a stretch of the Seine between Paris and the Normandy city of Rouen, far from the sea.
Ecologists have been trying in vain since Friday to feed the beluga fish. Sea Shepherd fears the whale is slowly starving to death in the waterway.