French officials desperately trying to rescue a beluga whale trapped in the River Seine have come up with a new strategy – a vitamin cocktail.
According to AFP, rescuers hope it will help the lost whale regain its appetite and the energy needed to return to sea.
The visibly malnourished mammal was first spotted in the river on Tuesday, around 70km (44 miles) north of Paris.
After failed attempts to encourage it to swim out, the animal remains stuck and scientists worry for its health.
So far rescuers have offered up frozen herring and live trout for the four-metre whale to eat, but a local official in Eure, Isabelle Dorliat-Pouzet, said the animal did not appear to have accepted either.
“It’s quite emaciated and seems to be having trouble eating,” AFP quoted her as saying on Saturday.
Authorities hope that injecting the stranded animal with vitamins will stimulate its appetite and help it to make the long 160km (100 mile) return journey back up the river and out to the English Channel, where it can swim back to its Arctic habitat.
Another option being considered is to remove the whale from the river entirely, but this would require the mammal having enough strength to survive an even riskier journey.
Officials said on Saturday that small spots had appeared on the whale’s skin, but it was not clear yet whether this was a reaction to the fresh water of the River Seine – as opposed to its natural salt water habitat – or a sign of the animal’s deteriorating health.
Scientific observers said the whale was behaving skittishly, rising to the surface only briefly, and emitting fewer of the songs expected of a whale – raising further concerns over its wellbeing.
Experts are puzzled how the whale managed to stray so far from its natural habitat – the cold waters of the Arctic and sub-Arctic.
Belugas occasionally venture south in the autumn to feed as ice forms, but it is rare for them to travel so far from their native home. But similar stories are not unheard of.
In May, a killer whale was found dead after swimming up the River Seine in Normandy. A plan to guide the four-metre male orca back to the sea using sound stimuli failed, and experts later concluded it was seriously ill.
This came just weeks after a humpback whale seen swimming in the same stretch of water had died. It was thought to have found its way into the Thames because of a navigational error, possibly during high tides.