French authorities are tracking a beluga whale that strayed far from its Arctic habitat into the Seine River, raising fears that the ethereal white mammal could starve if it stays in the waterway that flows through Paris and beyond.
Drone footage shot by French fire services 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 kilometers (miles) inland from the sea.
“It's quite an impressive animal, which is white (and) which seems calm. It doesn't seem stressed, surfacing regularly," fire service officer Patrick Hérot, from Normandy's Eure region, told French broadcaster TF1.
Marine conservation group Sea Shepherd France said it was scrambling to assist the whale, sending drones and a boat to track it. It said the whale is likely to need food and help to guide it back toward its natural ocean habitat.
“It's condemned to die if it stays in the Seine,” Lamya Essemlali, the group's president, told TF1.
Belugas' pale skin and bulbous foreheads make them easily recognizable. Known also for their sociability, they habitually live, hunt and migrate together in pods.