French authorities are racing to rescue a beluga spotted in the Seine after it strayed thousands of miles from its habitat in the Arctic Ocean.
Marine conservationists fear the animal could starve to death if left in the waterway that runs through it Paris.
The whale was spotted on Wednesday and firefighters used a drone to monitor it swimming in a stretch of the river between the French capital and the Normandy city of Rouen.
Normandy Eure region fire officer Patrick Herot said the “impressive” sea creature appeared “calm”, adding that it did not appear stressed and was “regularly coming to the surface”.
However, the whale barely moved on Thursday, drifting between two locks on the river, according to Eure official Isabelle Dorliat-Pouzet – raising concerns about its welfare.
Conservation group Sea Shepherd France has warned the animal is in urgent need of food and help to bring it home.
“He is doomed to die if he stays in the Seine,” said group president Lamya Essemlali.
“The challenge now will be to help feed him and try to accompany him to the ocean.”
Removing the beluga from the water is not possible as it could endanger the animal, Ms Essemlali said.
Drone footage captured the animal’s silhouette just below the waterline before it rose to the surface to breathe.
It is not known why the animal left Arctic waters.
Belugas are famous for their pale skin and bulbous foreheads. They are also known to be social animals that usually live, hunt, and migrate together in pods.
In May last year a minke whale had to be euthanized after being stranded in the Thames.
A dead whale was removed from the waterway near Gravesend, Kent, in October 2019 – within five miles of where a humpback whale was struck by a boat days earlier.