French environmentalists and authorities prepared Tuesday to move a trapped beluga whale which has been stuck in the Seine River since last week.
Crews were on Tuesday evening preparing to use a crane and nets to remove the beleaguered and dangerously thin mammal, hoping to transport it to a coastal spot for a period of care.
While experts think the whale might be sick, moving the 4-meter-long (13 ft) mammal could cause it harm as well.
Speaking to The Associated Press Conservation specialist at Marineland Antibes Isabelle Brasseur said “he could die now, during the lifting”, but said it was “important to try” to move the animal.
Once the whale is lifted out of the river it will be put in a special metal box inside a climatized truck, which will be set to a temperature of between 18 to 20 degrees centigrade (64-68F), and then will be driven to the northeastern French port town of Ouistreham.
Evreux deputy prefect Isabelle Dorliat Pouzet said a large crew had rallied behind the rescue attempt, with around 80 people; “half of them firemen, many gendarmes to secure the location, ten divers and many animal specialists, veterinarians and others.”
Conservation groups said it would take 24 people to load the beluga into a refrigerated truck for the approximately 160-kilometer (99-mile) trip to Ouistreham, describing the the saltwater transfer as an “enormous operation.”
Because the region is experiencing extreme heat, the team plans to wait until nightfall before moving the ethereal white creature. It weighs about 800 kilograms (1,764 pounds).
Rescuers hope to spare the whale the fate of an orca that strayed into the Seine and died in May.
They remain hopeful it will survive after it responded to a cocktail of antibiotics and vitamins administered in the last few days and rubbed itself on the lock’s wall to remove patches that had appeared on its back.