For two months, an orca has been observed in the mouth of the Seine

Observed for the first time at the beginning of April, this killer whale regularly ventures into the mouth of the Seine. But specialists are worried about his vital prognosis, which seems to be engaged.

For several weeks, an orca has been observed in the bay of the Seine, and has even ventured several kilometers inland, progressing in the river. The presence of this killer whale in these waters is extremely rare, and still unexplained. But lately, specialists are worried about the health of the animal, which seems to be deteriorating.

An extremely rare sighting

The killer whale, which is a male, was observed and filmed for the first time on April 5 “around 3:30 p.m. about twenty miles from the coast”, reports the GECC (Groupe d’Etude des Cetaces du Cotentin), i.e. about thirty kilometers. It was the crew of a shellfish trawler who spotted the cetacean.

Since then, the marine mammal has remained in the area and goes back and forth, venturing as far as Honfleur (Calvados). It has even been observed at the Yainville ferry in recent days, more than 60 kilometers from the mouth of the river.

Path traveled by the killer whale present in the bay of the Seine since the beginning of April
Path traveled by the killer whale present in the bay of the Seine since the beginning of April © BFMTV

“This image is exceptional because sightings of killer whales are extremely rare in the Channel Sea”, told Brut Gérard Mauger, vice-president and founder of the GECC, in mid-April. “We mainly see them in Scotland, Iceland, Norway and further south in the Bay of Biscay, but on the Channel Sea, there are very, very few sightings, a few sightings for half a century and still not all validated”.

What is this killer whale doing in this area?

Specialists are currently wondering about the presence of this animal in a freshwater area where it is not usual, while it normally lives in the seas and oceans. Several hypotheses are put forward.

“It can be a youngster who has been excluded from a group or who has isolated himself due to an illness, who may also have come to calmer waters to find food more easily,” explains Delphine Eloi, director of the GECC. It can also be “a young male who left the group and found himself a bit isolated”.

However, this is not the first time that an orca has been reported in fresh water. “In October 1931, a 4-meter-long female traveled up the Columbia River in Oregon [Etats-Unis]over more than 100 miles and stayed there for nearly 100 days”, says the Larousse encyclopedia.

His vital prognosis engaged

The health of the killer whale observed in the Seine seems in any case to have deteriorated in a few weeks. If in mid-April, Gérard Mauger did not notice any problems with the animal, the orca today seems to be in difficulty, with behaviors that could signify a health problem. Asked by Actu, he mentioned on Tuesday a vital prognosis “not favorable”, explaining that the animal is “emaciated and has fungal infections”.

“When killer whales are no longer in their pod, they are pretty much doomed. It’s natural selection,” he says.

Delphine Eloi advises the population not to try to approach the animal, which is very sensitive to stress. He remains guarded for the moment, hoping that he finds his way back to the sea.

Salome Vincendon

Salome Vincendon BFMTV journalist

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