CAEN: The appearance of a killer whale miles up France’s Seine River has sparked amazement but also concern for the well-being of the animal, whose life appears in danger, conservationists said today.
The whale, also known as an orca and usually found in open saltwater, was swimming between the port city of Le Havre at the mouth of the Seine and the inland city of Rouen, downriver from the French capital Paris.
Videos posted on social media have shown the orca’s distinctive dorsal fin and black and white colours, stunning the onlookers who took the footage.
Killer whales, which despite their name belong to the dolphin family, are occasionally spotted in the English Channel but such sightings are considered rare, let alone in a river.
“Its life is in danger. We are really very, very worried. Its state of health is very poor,” said Gerard Mauger, vice president of the GECC regional cetacean protection group.
“The more it stays in fresh water, the more this will accelerate the degradation of its state of health,” he told AFP.
“It is far from the sea. It is really complicated to find solutions to encourage it to head to saltwater.
He said the animal is “very thin” but likely weighs over a tonne, and appears to be a male 4 to 5m long.
It was first observed on May 16 between the harbour town of Honfleur and Le Havre, apparently already in a weakened state.
Mauger said that while being in a river helped the animal to conserve energy it also complicated its search for prey, especially for species known to hunt in packs.
Helping the whale risks causing the animal stress that could be especially dangerous to it in its weakened state, he added.
Mauger said killer whales are protected by law and warned it could also be dangerous to approach the animal, which could transmit a virus or cause an accident. — AFP