A MANIC rescue mission has been launched to save a 13ft beluga whale spotted swimming up the river Seine in France.
Authorities fear for the creature’s safety as the protected species is usually found in cold Arctic waters.
Drone footage showed the whale gently meandering in a stretch of the river’s light green waters between Paris and the Normandy city of Rouen, many tens of kilometres inland from the sea.
The whale – which officials say appears to be underweight – was today believed to be wandering in a 40km stretch of river between two sets of locks northwest of Paris.
Authorities said the mammal seemed worryingly thin and that it swam away from boats hoping to guide it in the direction of the river’s mouth, between the sea ports of Le Havre and Honfleur.
It was first seen on Tuesday in the river that flows through the French capital to the English Channel.
Rescue crews, firefighters and biodiversity experts quickly dashed to keep a close eye on the whale to evaluate its “worrying” health.
Authorities added the whale seemed to have “skin changes and to be underweight”.
Gerard Mauger, deputy head of French Marine Mammal Research Group GEEC, said the mammal spent “very little time on the surface” and appeared to have “good” lung capacity.
But Mauger said rescuers were struggling to guide the whale to the mouth of the Seine.
Authorities in Normandy’s Eure department have urged people to keep their distance to avoid distressing the animal.
Lamya Essemlali, head of the non-profit marine conservation organisation Sea Shepherd, said some of her team used drones to locate the whale more easily.
She said: “The environment is not very welcoming for the beluga, the Seine is very polluted and cetaceans are extremely sensitive to noise.
“The urgency is to feed the whale to prevent it from suffering the same fate as the orca who died after starving to death.”
Conservationists were hoping to spare the whale the fate of another, an Orca, also known as a killer whale, that strayed and then died in the Seine in May.
Belugas are considered an endangered species and are often found in shallow coastal Artic waters.
It comes after a baby minkle whale that got stuck in the river Thames twice last year was euthanised “to end its suffering.”