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Starving beluga whale dies hours after being lifted out of River Seine in late-night rescue attempt

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Firefighters and members of a search and rescue team pull up a net as they rescue a beluga whale which strayed into France's Seine river, near the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garenne lock in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne. Picture: Reuters

Firefighters and members of a search and rescue team pull up a net as they rescue a beluga whale which strayed into France's Seine river, near the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garenne lock in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne. Picture: Reuters

Firefighters and members of a search and rescue team pull up a net as they rescue a beluga whale which strayed into France's Seine river, near the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garenne lock in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne. Picture: Reuters

The beluga whale which was lifted out of the River Seine earlier on Wednesday has died, despite the mission to save it, according to local authorities.

"Despite an unprecedented rescue operation for the beluga, we are sad to announce the death of the cetacean," the prefect of the Calvados department, said on Twitter.

The hale was lifted out of the river on Wednesday as authorities desperately attempted to rescue it.

The extraction of the whale was overseen by the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd France.

The beluga swam nearly halfway to Paris before local authorities confined the all-white whale in a large lock system. They had aimed to move the whale to another navigation lock closer to the sea and with salt water. 

A medical team had been attempting to transport the 4-metre-long whale to a coastal spot in the northeastern French port town of Ouistreham for “a period of care,” according to Lamya Essemlali, president of the conservation group Sea Shepherd France.

Experts had known the whale was sick and lost the race against time for survival.

The whale was to remain in its temporary saltwater home for “two to three days” of surveillance and treatment before being towed out to sea, according to Isabelle Dorliat Pouzet, deputy prefect of the town of Evreux.”

A team of some 80 people, including veterinarians and environmentalists, gathered Tuesday near a Seine River lock in the Eure region to plot the exodus.

Conservations groups said it would take 24 people to load the beluga into a refrigerated truck for the approximately 160-kilometre trip to Ouistreham, describing the the saltwater transfer as an “enormous operation.”

Because the region is experiencing extreme heat, the team planned to wait until nightfall before moving the ethereal white creature. It weighs about 800 kilogrammes.

Rescuers had hoped to spare the whale the fate of an orca that strayed into the Seine and died in May.

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Authorities said that while the move carried its own mortality risk because of the stress on the animal, the whale couldn’t survive much longer in the Seine’s freshwater habitat.

Drone footage shot by French fire services last week showed the whale meandering into a stretch of the Seine between Paris and the Normandy city of Rouen that is far inland from the sea.

Conservationists have tried unsuccessfully since Friday to feed fish to the beluga..


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