A gravely ill orca which became separated from its pod and swam dozens of miles up the Seine in France has died of natural causes, the campaign group Sea Shepherd said on Monday, after attempts to guide it back to sea failed.
“We found him late this morning,” said Lamya Essemlali, the chair of Sea Shepherd France.
Scientists concluded over the weekend that the 4-metre (13-ft) animal was terminally ill and likely to be suffering from mucormycosis, or black fungus, a disease seen in whales in North America but not observed in Europe before.
During an attempt on Saturday to lure the whale back out to sea with a drone emitting orca sounds, the whale responded erratically and incoherently to the sounds, the prefecture of the Seine maritime area said. Recordings of the whale captured what they said were distress calls.
By Monday, it resembled nothing more than “a ghost of an orca”, Essemlali said, and it died before any attempt at euthanasia could be made.
After infecting the skin of weakened animals, mucormycosis can spread to the heart, lungs and brain, which explained the whale’s disoriented behaviour, the prefecture said. It added that the disease seemed very advanced in this case and was probably causing the whale major suffering.
The whale’s body will be moved to the riverbank and an autopsy conducted, local officials said in a statement.
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