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French authorities planned to give vitamins to a beluga whale that swam far up the Seine on Saturday as they ran to rescue the malnourished cetaceans that refused food.
The apparently underweight whale was first spotted on Tuesday in the river that flows through Paris to the Channel. By Saturday, it had made its way to about 70 kilometers (44 miles) north of the French capital.
“He is quite emaciated and seems to be having trouble eating,” Isabelle Dorliat-Pouzet, a senior police officer in the Eure department in Normandy, which oversees the rescue operation, told a news conference.
Rescuers had tried feeding it frozen herring and then live trout, but didn’t seem to accept it either, she said. It is hoped that injecting the animal with vitamins will stimulate its appetite, she said.
Authorities were deciding whether to keep the animal in the waterway so it could regain its appetite or lead it back to sea, she said, adding that no decision has been made yet.
She said small spots had appeared on his pale skin, but scientists had not yet determined whether this was a natural phenomenon due to the fresh water or signs of health problems.
On Friday, Gerard Mauger of the GECC Marine Conversation Society told TUSEN that although it is a very social mammal, “it behaves the same as yesterday, it seems very skittish. It only comes to the surface briefly, followed by long dives.”
Based on sonar recordings, it also emitted very little of the chirps and wails the whales are known for, raising further concerns about the animal’s health.
Belugas are normally only found in cold Arctic waters, and although they migrate south in the fall to feed as ice, they rarely venture that far.
An adult can grow up to four meters (13 feet) in length.
It is only the second recorded sighting of a beluga in a French river since 1948, when a fisherman in the mouth of the Loire River found one in his nets.
The sighting comes just a few months after an orca — also known as a killer whale, but technically part of the dolphin family — ran aground in the Seine and was later found dead between Le Havre and Rouen in late May.
An autopsy found that the animal, which was more than four meters long, was likely exhausted after being unable to eat, although officials said they also discovered a bullet lodged in the base of its skull – although it was distant it was clear that the wound played a role in his death.