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Beluga whale stranded in French river dies after failed rescue mission

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By Ben Turner  & AFP
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Vets take care of a beluga whale that was stranded in the River Seine at Notre Dame de la-Garenne, northern France
Vets take care of a beluga whale that was stranded in the River Seine at Notre Dame de la-Garenne, northern France   -   Copyright  Jean-Francois Monier/AFP

A beluga whale stranded in France's River Seine has died after a failed rescue mission. 

The 800-kilogram cetacean was found stuck in shallow waters northwest of Paris, around 100km inland last Tuesday. 

Today, officials confirmed the white whale was euthanised after around 80 rescuers launched a bid to remove it from the river and transfer it back to the coast. 

The Préfet du Calvados wrote on Twitter today: "Despite an unprecedented rescue operation of #beluga, we are sad to announce the death of the cetacean."

The closest beluga whale colony is in Svalbard, an archipelago located in northern Norway 3,000km (1,860 miles) from the River Seine.

Vets successfully lifted the mammal, which measured four metres long, from the French waterway this morning using a hammock.

It was then placed into a refrigerated truck ahead of a 160-kilometre (99-mile) trip to a saltwater basin in Normandy in the north of France. 

Authorities had planned to keep the whale in the pool for two or three days of treatment before towing it out to sea.

But the dangerously thin mammal began to have breathing difficulties during the rescue bid and experts decided to euthanise it, said vet Ollivet Courtois. 

Conservation group Sea Shepherd France previously said the beluga was a male with no infectious diseases.

The group wrote today on Twitter: "It is with heavy hearts that we announce that the beluga did not survive the transportation which was risky, but essential to give an otherwise doomed animal a chance. 

"Following the deterioration of his condition, the veterinarians took the decision to euthanize him.

"We are devastated by this tragic outcome that we knew was very likely, but we thank all those who worked for this unprecedented mobilization: firefighters, caregivers, volunteers, supporters, and Isabelle Dorliat [secretary general for the Eure district]."