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Orca Morgan’s Hearing

November 16, 2012

One of the contentious underlying debates regarding Morgan and whether she should be released to a sea pen, or the wild, rather than spend a life at Loro Parque, is whether she is deaf, or has impaired hearing.

Obviously, impaired hearing would be an issue for an orca in the wild, and so this question is critical to whether Morgan would be a good candidate for release. Loro  Parque has repeatedly said she has hearing issues, and now they have released two videos, one discussing auditory tests, and the other the visual bridge they have developed for Morgan’s training.

UPDATE: And here is the audiogram being administered…

Here’s the translation of what the Loro Parque blog is saying about the tests:

International scientists confirm that the orca Morgan, rescued in Holland in 2010 and moved to the park in 2011 at the request of a Dutch judge, suffers a hearing loss that could be very severe and even absolute. This is the conclusion reached by the experts having made multiple hearing tests that took place last week at the facilities of Orca Ocean.

The research team, composed of experts from the Netherlands Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem study ( IMARES ), the National Endowment for marine mammals and also U.S. Office of Naval Research for the U.S. Navy (U.S. Navy ), studied the hearing of several copies of orca we have in the park. As a result found that they all could record brain responses to sound stimuli, except Morgan.This study confirms the suspicions of our team of trainers and veterinarians, who had warned that the animal did not seem to respond to sound signals.

This type of test, which consists in detecting brain waves in response to the issuance of a sound, is routinely used to determine the hearing of dolphins and small cetaceans. However, its application to the study of orcas sound pioneered the world, since there is only one precedent duplicate fourteen years ago.

With the confirmation of this deaf coaches continue to make visual adaptations of the system they use to communicate with Morgan. With the advice of specialists in animal behavior from the Free University of Berlin, will develop new lines of work that will allow any inconvenience Morgan further.

I hope that the report that is generated from this effort is released publicly.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. An Go permalink
    November 16, 2012 1:39 pm

    How odd….I would like to hear an explanation as to why all the other orcas now have to learn the handsignal for behaviour termination?? Why? They hear the whistle, don’t they?
    Also….was this audigram rather an experiment? Klaus Lucke sounded like it?

  2. November 17, 2012 7:12 pm

    Orca can learn the concept of a bridge rapidly, in just a couple of sessions. So, having the other orca learn a visual bridge concept, to accommodate Morgan & the synchronized public performances, seems part convenience and also part of an educational process involving whales and trainers.

  3. Kay permalink
    November 18, 2012 12:30 am

    Morgan responded well to whistles at Dolfinarium Harderwijk. I wonder if any deafness that came about was a direct result of being house at Loro Parque, hah.

  4. ria permalink
    November 18, 2012 8:20 pm

    Looking at the photo’s it all looks very laissez faire and slack, hardly what you would call a real research test with no scientific control group. I dont think anybody is going to look at this and find it credible. Im sure the judges if they take notice at all are going to call for independent groups to be allowed in to examine all the data.

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