(Update: re-ledes, changes headline)
Paris, Aug 10 (EFE).- A beluga whale that was found stranded in the River Seine about 70 kilometers from Paris has died during a delicate rescue operation, French authorities said Wednesday.
“Despite an unprecedented rescue operation, it is with sadness that we announce the cetacean’s death,” authorities of Calvados, in north-western France, said.
The 800-kilogram beluga was euthanized while it was transported to the English Channel port of Ouistreham, where rescue teams had planned to release the whale back into the sea.
“During the trip, the veterinarians noted a deterioration in his condition, particularly in his respiratory system,” the rescuers said.
“In view of the evident suffering of the animal, it was not appropriate to release it and therefore it had to be euthanized.”
Rescue teams overnight had used a crane to lift the 4-meter-long (13-foot) mammal out of the water with a net. The animal was then placed in a refrigerated truck for the journey to Ouistreham.
The beluga, a species native to the Arctic and the waters off Quebec in Canada, was spotted some 130 kilometers (80 miles) inland over a week ago severely underweight.
Its health concerned authorities, veterinarians and activists who decided to rescue the whale from the freshwater river to prevent its health from declining further. Conservationists had been trying unsuccessfully to feed the whale since Friday.
“We are devastated by this tragic outcome, which we knew was very likely,” marine conservation group Sea Shepherd France said on Twitter.
“We would like to thank all those who worked on this unprecedented mission: firefighters, carers, volunteers, supporters,” it added.
Some 80 people were involved in the rescue operation to save the beluga whale.EFE