The cetacean had been stuck since August 2 in the freshwater lock of Saint-Pierre-La-Garenne, some 75 km northwest of Paris. His health deteriorated after refusing to eat, according to wildlife protection associations monitoring the situation.
It took more than 80 rescuers six hours to extract the animal from the lock, Reuters reported, after which it was placed on a barge, where it underwent medical checks.
However, scientists had become concerned about the animal’s “alarming” weight loss and had to euthanize it soon after. His death was confirmed by officers from the Essonne departmental fire and rescue service in a video message.
“During the trip, the veterinarians noted a deterioration in his condition, in particular his respiratory activity, and we were able to observe that the animal was in anoxia – that is to say insufficiently ventilated – so this animal was suffering. obviously and we decided that it was useless to release him and we therefore had to proceed with his euthanasia,” said Florence Ollivet-Courtois, veterinarian at the fire and rescue service.
Vets previously hoped the whale could be transported to Normandy and eventually released back into the sea.
According to Reuters, he weighed around 800 kilograms (1,764 pounds) but should have weighed around 1,200 kilograms (2,646 pounds).
The beluga’s natural habitat is in the arctic and subarctic regions. Although the best-known population is in the St. Lawrence estuary in Quebec, Canada, the closest to the French coast is in Svalbard, an archipelago in northern Norway, about 1,900 miles from the Seine.
No one knows how the beluga strayed, but the loss of sea ice in arctic waters is opening up the region to more shipping, fishing and other human activities, affecting the whales’ ability to communicate and navigate, according to the WWF. Finding food and looking for mates also becomes much more difficult for the species.
In recent years, many species of marine mammals have been reported in France, far from their primary habitat. Possible reasons could include health status, age, social isolation and environmental conditions, among others, according to the French Observatory Pelagis, which specializes in the study of marine mammals.
CNN’s Angela Dewan contributed to this story.