Environmental experts in France are planning a rescue mission to an underweight beluga whale, which was spotted swimming in the Seine.
Rescuers have been monitoring the beluga with two drones after it was spotted in the Saint-Pierre La Garena River on Wednesday, 50 miles northwest of Paris.
Eure Department official Isabelle Dorliat-Pouzet said the whale barely moved on Thursday as it glides peacefully between two gates on the river.
Drone footage shows the beluga swimming slowly, its white silhouette just below the waterline, and beginning to breathe.
It’s unclear why the animal moved away from its natural habitat in the frigid Arctic waters, passing the port of Rouen and driving dozens of miles along the busy waterway towards the French capital.
The public is urged to stay away from the seemingly underweight animal,
“The challenge now will be to help feed it and try to accompany it to the ocean,” said Lamya Essemlali, head of the conservation group Sea Shepherd France.
She said it was impossible to remove the beluga from the water because it was risky for it.
Belugas typically live in the Arctic and sub-Arctic oceans, although they sometimes stray into more southern waters and estuaries, and can temporarily survive in freshwater.
French firefighters monitoring the Senna said their priority was to assess their health before considering whether to intervene.
In late May, a seriously ill orca was separated from its pod and traveled dozens of miles up the Seine, but died of natural causes after an unsuccessful attempt to steer it back to sea.
A month later, another whale, believed to be a 10-meter (33-foot) minke whale, was found in the Seine.
In September 2018, beluga whales were spotted in the Thames near Gravesend for several days in what was then the southernmost sighting of beluga whales off the UK coast.
Additional reporting by Reuters