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A beluga whale that accidentally found its way into France’s Seine River and became trapped has died after officials said it had to be euthanized Wednesday following its rescue from the waterway.
The whale was stranded since last week after veering off its usual path to the Arctic. Conservationists had tried to feed fish to the male marine mammal since Friday, but it refused to eat.
As a rescue team was preparing to transfer the whale to a saltwater pool in Normandy, the dangerously thin animal began to have breathing difficulties. Experts determined that euthanizing the creature was the most humane thing to do.
“During the journey, the veterinarians confirmed a worsening of its state, notably its respiratory activities, and at the same time noticed the animal was in pain, not breathing enough,” Florence Ollivet Courtois, a French wild animal expert, said. “The suffering was obvious for the animal, so it was important to release its tension, and so we had to proceed to euthanize it.”
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Conservation group Sea Shepherd France said veterinary exams after the beluga’s removal from the river showed it has no digestive activity.
Courtois said the whale experienced distress after it was moved to a refrigerated truck and during the approximately 99-mile drive to the Normandy coast.
The rescue team said ahead of time that the transfer carried a risk of the whale dying because of the stress involved in the process. However, the move was deemed necessary because the animal would not have been able to survive in much longer in the Seine’s fresh water.
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“The decision to euthanize the beluga was taken as it was too weakened to be put back into water,” Guillaume Lericolais, the subprefect of France’s Calvados region, said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.