PARIS ( Associated Press) – French environmentalists prepared on Tuesday to relocate a beluga whale that wandered into the Seine River last week in a saltwater basin in Normandy, hoping to save the life of the dangerously slender marine mammal.
Read more: Rescuers work to help a sick, stranded whale calf in Greece
A medical team plans to transport the 4-metre-long (13-foot-long) whale to a coastal location in the northeastern French port city of Ouistreham for a “period of care”, according to Lamya Essemli, president of the conservation group. Sea Shepherd France.
Experts believe the whale is sick and in a race for time to survive, she said.
Everex will remain in its temporary saltwater home for “two to three days” of monitoring and treatment before being taken out to sea, according to the city’s deputy prefect Isabel Dorriat Pouzet.
“Then, nature will do its job,” Pouzet said. “We have to be optimistic … the work is painstakingly prepared.”
A team of about 80 people, including veterinarians and environmentalists, gathered on Tuesday near a Seine river lock in the Eure region to plot the escape of the new local figure.
Conservation groups said it would take 24 people to load the Beluga into a refrigerated truck for the roughly 160-kilometre (99-mile) journey to Oistreheim, describing the saltwater transfer as a “heavy operation”. .
Since the region is experiencing extreme heat, the team plans to wait until nightfall before relocating the ethereal white creature. It weighs about 800 kg (1,764 lb).
Rescuers hope to save the whale from the fate of an orca that strayed into the Seine and died in May.
Officials said the move risks its own death because of the stress on the animal, the whale may not survive long in the freshwater habitat of the Seine.
They hope it will survive after responding to a cocktail of antibiotics and vitamins administered over the past few days and rubbed itself against the wall of the lock to remove the visible patches on its back.
Sea Shepherd’s Essemli said medical monitoring in the saltwater basin will help establish whether the whale is “suffering from something we can help it with or an incurable disease.”
Drone footage shot by French fire services last week showed whales roaming a part of the Seine between Paris and the Normandy city of Rouen that is far from the sea.
Conservationists have unsuccessfully tried to fish the beluga since Friday. Sea Shepherd fears that whales in the waterway are slowly starving.