A beluga whale that had strayed into the river Seine has died despite efforts to save it on Wednesday morning.
The 4-metre-long whale had been stuck in the river, north-west of Paris, for a week amid growing health concerns.
It was removed from the river, with a giant net, on Tuesday night, and transferred to a barge where a dozen vets were waiting to treat it. It was later transferred to a refrigerated truck for transport to a saltwater pool in Normandy where it was hoped it would recover before being released into the sea.
Just before 11 a.m. on Wednesday, the team caring for the whale said it had to be euthanized after developing breathing difficulties.
Veterinarian Olivet Courtois said that during the rescue operation, the dangerously thin mammal began to have difficulty breathing, so experts decided to humanely euthanize the creature.
The whale, which became a local celebrity, was only discovered last week after accidentally veering off its normal path to the Arctic.
The plan had been for the whale to remain in its temporary saltwater home, in the northeastern French port town of Ouistrehamof, 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.
White whale rescue attempt – In pictures
“Then nature will take its course,” said Pouzet. “We must be optimistic… the work has been painstakingly prepared.”
Authorities previously said the move involved risks due to the stress on the animal, but that the whale could not survive much longer in the Seine’s freshwater habitat.
Drone footage shot by French firefighters last week showed the whale meandering into a stretch of the Seine between Paris and the Normandy city of Rouen, which lies far inland from the sea.
Conservationists have been unsuccessfully trying to feed fish to the beluga since Friday.