The cetaceans have been stuck in a freshwater lock at Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, about 45 miles northwest of Paris, since August 2. Her health deteriorated after she refused to eat, according to wildlife conservation groups monitoring the situation.
Reuters reported that it took more than 80 rescuers six hours to get the animal out of the lock, after which it was placed on a boat, where it underwent medical examinations.
However, scientists were concerned about the animal’s “alarming” weight loss and had to get rid of it soon after. Officials from the Eason Fire and Rescue Department confirmed his death in a video message.
“During the flight, the vets noticed a deterioration in his condition, particularly in his respiratory activity, and we were able to note that the animal was hypoxic – that is, insufficient ventilation – so it was clear that the animal was suffering and we decided that it was,” said Florence Olivet Courtois, a veterinarian. In the fire and rescue service:
Veterinarians had earlier hoped that the whale could be taken to Normandy and eventually released into the sea.
According to Reuters, it weighed about 800 kilograms (1,764 pounds) but was supposed to be around 1,200 kilograms (2,646 pounds).
The natural habitat of the beluga is in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Although the most famous inhabitants are found at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada, the closest to the French coast is in Svalbard, an archipelago in northern Norway, about 1,900 miles from the Seine.
No one knows how the beluga got lost, but the loss of sea ice in Arctic waters is opening the region to more shipping, hunting and other human activities, affecting the whales’ ability to communicate and navigate, according to the WWF. Finding food and searching for mates are becoming more and more difficult for the species, too.
In recent years, many species of marine mammals have been reported in France, far from their primary habitat. Possible causes could include health status, age, social isolation and environmental conditions, among others, according to the French Pelagis Observatory, which specializes in studying marine mammals.
CNN’s Angela Dewan contributed to this story.
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