On Tuesday, what appears to be a beluga, an all-white-skinned marine mammal found in the northern seas, was spotted in the Seine, the river that passes through Paris. On Thursday morning the animal was located: it is found in a lock about 70 kilometers north-west of Paris, between the Poses dam and that of Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne. His state of health is “worrying”, said the prefecture of Eure in the Normandy region.
Belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) are large cetaceans. They are part of the same family of killer whales and dolphins, although the species they are closest to are the Monodon monoceros, the narwhals. They are a protected species and are widespread in the northern seas, those above Alaska, Greenland, Canada, northern Europe and Russia. The word “beluga” derives from the Russian: it means “white”.
The size of the beluga seen in the Seine has not been communicated, but an adult can reach up to four meters in length. The prefecture of Eure explained that these mammals migrate away from the Arctic to find food in the fall when ice forms, and that they sometimes swim further south than usual. However, they rarely get this far south. However, they can temporarily survive even in fresh water.
Gérard Mauger, vice president of the Groupe d’étude des cétacés du Cotentin, said the Seine beluga spends very little time on the surface, performs long apneas and appears to have “good” lung capacity. From the images available, however, he seems underweight and seems to show skin lesions probably due to the stay in unsalted water.
Rescuers are trying to bring the beluga to the mouth of the Seine, but its behavior complicates the work. He escapes from the boats and does not let himself be guided. People were asked not to try to approach or come into contact with the animal to facilitate rescue and to avoid stressing it. Lamya Essemlali, of the animal rights group Sea Shepherd, explained that “the environment is not very welcoming for the beluga. The Seine is very polluted, the cetaceans are extremely sensitive to noise and the Seine is very noisy ».
Sea Shepherd is rather worried about the beluga and fears that what happened a few months ago when an orca was spotted in the Seine between Rouen and Le Havre in early June. The animal then ran aground and was found dead. The autopsy concluded that he had died of malnutrition. “The urgency is to feed the beluga to prevent it from suffering the same fate as the whale,” said Essemlali.