The drone must guide the stray orca, which is swimming more and more upstream of the Seine, back to the sea with the sounds of the orca. His life is in danger, say marine biologists.
Orcas are found almost everywhere in the world, but they thrive best in icy waters. Just think of Iceland, Norway, or the Atlantic waters of the Bay of Biscay. So you won’t see them often in the channel. So there was a big surprise when a sample appeared in the port of Le Havre in Normandy on May 16. The animal swam alone along the estuary of the Seine at Honfleur. Marine biologists were immediately concerned. The orca is a group animal and lives in a family environment. This four-foot-tall man was clearly lost.
Meanwhile, the animal swam more and more downstream of the Seine. On Friday, orcas were seen in Rouen, about 70 kilometers from the mouth of the river. The photos show that his health has deteriorated sharply. “It’s in mortal danger,” Gerard Mauger, vice president of the French whale research group, told France 3: Moger suspects that orcas are seeking rest in the Seine, because the river’s current is less heavy. But in the long run, fresh water and a lack of food led to severe weight loss. If the animal does not return to the sea soon, it will face certain death.
Its poor condition appears immediately on the curved dorsal fin. The orca is also called a sword whale in Dutch, after its sword-like fin. Males under normal conditions boast a dead specimen in a row. Older footage showed the stray orca splitting waves with its straight fin, but little of that remains now.
It’s hard to find a solution without putting more pressure on the animal, Moger says. However, on Friday, the French authorities decided to take action. Using sonar sounds that mimic the orca’s communication patterns, they will attempt to guide the animal back into the salt water. Orcas use a wide arsenal of clicking sounds to communicate with each other. They transmit each other’s location via what is called echolocation.
The Seine-Maritime division will deploy a drone to transmit sonar sounds. In this non-invasive way we can reach the animal from a few hundred metres. In this way we avoid deploying ships too close to the animal, as this could increase its stress and endanger its life.” It is not yet certain whether this will work, because the communication patterns of orcas are very complex. Humans have never been able to fully decipher them.
This isn’t the first time a whale has been lost in a river. Last year, a minke whale swam across the Thames to southwest London. The calf did not survive the flight. A dead humpback whale was also found in the Thames in 2019.
Correction (05/28/2022): Originally it was referred to as the “North Sea Channel”, as it should have been the “channel”. The North Sea Canal is a canal that connects Amsterdam with the North Sea.
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