An ailing whale that strayed into France's River Seine has died during a last-ditch rescue operation after experts decided to put the animal down to prevent further suffering.
A beluga whale stranded in the Seine river in northern France for more than a week has died during an attempt to rescue it.
"Despite an unprecedented rescue operation we must announce with sadness that the cetacean has died," the authorities in the Normandy region of Calvados tweeted, adding that the whale had to be put down during transport.
The beluga whale was stranded in the river Seine in northern France for more than a week and was removed from the water in the first stage of an ambitious rescue operation to return it to the sea.
After nearly six hours of work by dozens of divers and rescuers, the 800-kilogram cetacean was lifted from the river by a net and crane at around 0200 GMT and placed on a barge under the immediate care of a dozen veterinarians.
A rescue team was preparing to transfer the whale to a saltwater pool in Normandy but during the rescue operation, the dangerously thin animal began to have breathing difficulties.
“During the journey, the veterinarians confirmed a worsening of its state, notably its respiratory activities, and at the same time noticed the animal was in pain, not breathing enough," Florence Ollivet Courtois, a French wild animal expert, said.
Experts decided the most humane thing to do was to euthanise the creature.
"The suffering was obvious for the animal, so it was important to release its tension, and so we had to proceed to euthanise it.”
The four-metre whale was spotted more than a week ago heading towards Paris and was stranded about 130 kilometres inland from the Channel at Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne in Normandy.
Since Friday, the animal's movement inland had been blocked by a lock at Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, 70 kilometres northwest of Paris, and its health deteriorated after it refused to eat.
According to France's Pelagis Observatory, which specialises in sea mammals, the nearest beluga population is off the Svalbard archipelago, north of Norway, 3,000 kilometres from the Seine.
The trapped whale is only the second beluga ever sighted in France. The first was pulled out of the Loire estuary in a fisherman's net in 1948.