A beluga whale is seen swimming up France's Seine river, near a lock in Courcelles-sur-Seine, western France on August 5, 2022. - The beluga whale appears to be underweight and officials are worried about its health, regional authorities said. The protected species, usually found in cold Arctic waters, had made its way up the waterway and reached a lock some 70 kilometres (44 miles) from Paris. The whale was first spotted on August 2, 2022 in the river that flows through the French capital to the English Channel, and follows the rare appearance of a killer whale in the Seine just over two months ago. (Photo by Jean-François MONIER / AFP)

French animal rights activists are preparing a delicate rescue operation for a beluga whale that got lost in the Seine. “We have an idea that could work,” Isabelle Brasseur of Marineland Zoo in Antibes, southern France, told AFP on Tuesday. “We will explain them to the people who will help us and continue to refine them.”

The beluga whale was spotted in the Seine for the first time on Tuesday last week and has been stuck in a lock in Saint-Pierre-La-Garenne since Friday, around 70 kilometers from Paris – 130 kilometers from the Seine estuary on the English Channel. According to experts, the animal cannot survive long in the warm fresh water. Beluga whales typically live in arctic waters off the coasts of Russia, Alaska, and Canada.

The idea now is to pull the four-meter-long and 800-pound marine mammal out of the river and transport it to a seawater tank to feed it up and then bring it back to the sea. But the plan is anything but simple: a major problem is that the banks of the Seine at the lock are not accessible to vehicles, said Brasseur. Therefore, everything has to be done “by hand”.

The marine conservation organization Sea Shepherd has already asked for donations for the rescue operation. Among other things, ropes, nets and mattresses are required.

First, however, a veterinarian should check whether the weakened animal would survive the transport at all. Among other things, he should examine the blood and breathing of the whale. In the past few days, several attempts to feed the emaciated animal had been unsuccessful. According to experts, his lack of appetite could be a sign of illness.

According to experts, it is only the second time that a beluga whale has lost its way to France. The first time a fisherman spotted a whale in his nets in the Loire Estuary was in 1948.