The Case To Free Morgan
Next Thursday, Nov. 1, three Dutch judges will revisit last year’s decision to allow a rehabbing orca called Morgan to be shipped to Loro Parque in the Canary islands (instead of being released back into the wild). The case is high profile, with Jean Michel Cousteau joining Morgan’s cause. But two of Morgan’s most persistent and dedicated advocates have been Dr. Ingrid Visser and Lara Pozzato of the Free Morgan Foundation.
In advance of the hearing, Dr. Visser has prepared and submitted a detailed brief arguing that Morgan’s life at Loro Parque is both detrimental to her welfare and in violation of the conditions under which she was sent to Loro Parque. It is both compelling and sobering, and you can read it right here.
Loro Parque, where trainer Alexis Martinez was killed in 2009, has long been a troubled environment for orcas. I urge you to read Visser’s full report for an extremely comprehensive look at Morgan’s life there, as well as visit the Free Morgan Foundation website for more details on Morgan’s history, and the current effort to free her.
Here are some pictures included in the report, along with the captions describing what you are seeing:
Figure 6. Morgan (head out of water, on right) as she is rammed and pushed backwards by the two female orca, Skyla and Kohana. Note the amount of water being displaced as Morgan is forced backwards.
Figure 7. The full-frame photograph of Figure 6. Note the trainers standing to the right. During all the attacks recorded by the author the trainers were present, yet ignored them.
Figure 8. Skyla (female orca, left, obscured by gate) rams Morgan (right) and partially lifts her out of the water. NOTE: Morgan’s lower caudal peduncle is concave from force of ramming (at impact site). Water is displaced at impact site & on Morgan’s left (right of frame). Morgan weighs 1364 kg, requiring her be to hit with a substantial force, in order for her to be lifted out of the water this high.
Figure 11. During a training session, Morgan (partially obscured behind rail), rises out of the water in an attempt to avoid a bite from one of the two orca in the tank with her (Skyla and Kohana). This photo is one of a sequence of images, showing the open mouth and teeth progressed along Morgan’s body as she rose up and then slid down, to try to avoid the conflict.
Figure 23. Morgan exhibits a hypertrophic scar on her lower jaws, most likely a result of repeatedly banging her chin on the concrete walls. Such stereotypic behaviour can become self mutilating to the point where the subcutaneous injury can become painful and itchy. Further damage to Morgan’s rostrum through stereotypic behaviour inflicted on (2 July 2012). The trainers (on the day she inflicted these wounds and after they were inflicted) commanded her to push a ball repeatedly on the end of rostrum, in order to receive her allocated fish. Also note that the tips of Morgan’s teeth are being worn off from chewing on the concrete (also see Figure 24).
These are only a few of the pictures and diagrams. There is much, much more about Morgan’s life at Loro Parque in the report.