Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue

Beluga whale that strayed into France's Seine river swims near the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garenne lock in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, west of Paris, France, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. (Benoit Tessier / Pool via AP)

PARIS (AP) - A beluga whale that became a French celebrity after a wrong turn took it up the Seine River had to be euthanized Wednesday after experiencing health complications during an urgent rescue operation, authorities said.

The sparkling white marine mammal appeared deep inside France last week, having accidentally veered off the normal ocean migration route that takes belugas to and from Arctic waters.

Fearing the malnourished creature would not survive in the Seine much longer, a wildlife conservation group and veterinarians planned to move the lost whale to a saltwater port in Normandy, from where they hoped to return it to the open sea.

A team of 80 people assembled to try to save the animal's life, and it was successfully moved Tuesday night from a river lock in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, west of Paris, into a refrigerated truck for the 160-kilometer (99-mile) journey to the port in Ouistreham.

But