After being stuck in the Seine River in France for more than a week, a 13-foot Beluga whale died while being transported back to sea.
How did the Beluga whale get stuck in France?
The whale swam into the river and got stuck on Aug. 2 in Saint-Pierre-La-Garenne, a lock 45 miles northwest of Paris that contains freshwater. It’s still not clear where he came from or why he swam into the river.
Healthy adult Beluga whales are around 13 to 20 feet long and weigh about 2,000 to 2,500 pounds, per National Geographic.
This Beluga weighed in at a low 1,800 pounds, dangerously underweight because of a digestive issue he was experiencing, according to USA Today.
What happened to the Beluga whale in France?
The animal was euthanized while being transported to a saltwater pool in Normandy, due to deteriorating health conditions.
“During the trip, the veterinarians noted a deterioration in its condition, particularly in its respiratory activity, and we were able to see that the animal was in pain, not breathing enough,” Florence Ollivet-Courtois, veterinarian at the fire and rescue service, said in a public statement, per USA Today. “The suffering was obvious for the animal, so it was important to release its tension.”
The operation included 80 people, working as divers, scientists, police and firefighters, attempting to save the whale from being stuck, per The Washington Post.
Ollivet-Courtois said the attempt to move the whale was the last chance to try to save him because if he was left there, “he was doomed to a certain death.”
Have whales been rescued in similar missions before?
This is hardly the first attempt to rescue a trapped whale.
In 1988, three gray whales got trapped under sea ice in Barrow, Alaska.
The whales captivated the world and launched an effort to save the whales that involved the Alaska National Guard and the U.S. Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and —despite tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union — the Soviet Union also joined the mission.
“Operation Breakthrough” was a million-dollar operation to drill holes into the ice so that the whales could breathe on their journey out of the ice, back to the sea, according to National Geographic.