Asked about the chances of saving the animal, Lamya Essemlali, head of Sea Shepherd, the ocean defense NGO present on the scene, confided that the experts and the authorities were faced with “a challenge”, where there has “little hope”.
Since Friday evening, the beluga, a four-meter cetacean spotted on Tuesday in the Seine and whose presence in this river is exceptional, has been in a lock measuring approximately 125 m by 25 m 70 km north- west of Paris.
Several attempts to feed him have been unsuccessful: herring, trout and even squid… On Saturday, the veterinarians, “given the beluga’s physiological state”, had even administered “vitamins and products likely to whet his appetite,” the Eure prefecture said in a statement on Sunday morning.
A press briefing from the authorities was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at the Notre-Dame de la Garenne lock.
If the beluga adopts “a calm behavior” in this basin of the lock of the Garenne where it entered by itself, “it is very thin and presents cutaneous alterations due to its presence in fresh water”, notes the prefecture.
According to Sea Shepherd, this lack of nutrition is nothing new. “His lack of appetite is surely a symptom of something else, an origin that we do not know, an illness. He is undernourished and it dates back several weeks, even several months. At sea, he no longer ate “, explained Ms. Essemlali.
Also, on Sunday there was little time for optimism about the animal’s chances of survival and the fear that it would suffer the same fate as an orca found in the same river last May was growing. The operations to try to save the cetacean had failed and the animal had finally died of starvation.
However, the option of euthanizing the beluga was “discarded for the moment”, indicated Ms. Essemlali, because “at this stage it would be premature because it still has vigor, a curious behavior: it turns the head, it reacts to stimuli, it is not amorphous and moribund”.
– towards a lock exit –
Among the conceivable hypotheses are an extraction or an opening of the lock.
“We are all skeptical about his ability to reach the sea on his own. Even if we drove him with a boat, it would be extremely dangerous, if not impossible,” she said.
Another hypothesis would therefore be to extract it from the water and “take it to the sea to feed it and provide it with additional vitamins, do a biopsy to have information on its origin and information on its state of health and which makes him sick,” she said.
In any case, it does not seem possible to leave it in the lock where the water is stagnant and hot.
“He must go out within the next 24/48 hours, these are not optimal conditions for him”, explained the head of Sea Shepherd after a meeting with the prefecture, the French Office for Biodiversity, Pelagis and a Canadian cetacean expert.
According to the Pelagis observatory, which specializes in marine mammals, the beluga “has an arctic and subarctic distribution. Although the best known population is found in the estuary of the St. in Svalbard, an archipelago located in the north of Norway (3,000 km from the Seine)”.
According to the same organization, this is the second beluga known in France after a fisherman from the Loire estuary had brought one up in his nets in 1948. In 1966, another individual had gone up the Rhine as far as in Germany and in 2018, a beluga was observed in the Thames estuary in England.