A few weeks back, I posted a video of Morgan that was created by Loro Parque, along with some quick analysis.
Here’s the video again:
One element of the video that caught people’s attention was the apparent use of a whistle to bridge Morgan, which bears on the question of Morgan’s alleged deafness.
[UPDATED] A few observations… LoroParque chose some interesting footage to use to show how “well” Morgan is doing. Particularly towards the end, that video appears to give stronger evidence for how she is not acclimating well. The white water looks like displacement not play. Those wide eyes in the closing frames are consistent with behaviors seen in whales anticipating more acts of dominance directed towards her, not of one settling into the hierarchy. Her eyes are of a whale tight and uncomfortable in her social environment. I understand Morgan has a unique history along with some physical disabilities that further distance her from a “regular” orca, but those behaviors are far from that of the ” happy-go-lucky” captive norm. That’s a little more like throwing a Mizzou fan in the middle of KU country. That Tiger is blending in anonymously, hoping to make it through without any altercation. All the while, that Tiger is always watching his tail. The behaviors observed in this video are more consistent with those of learned helplessness rather than proof of her successful acclimation within the social environment of LoroParque.
In regards to earlier comments made suggesting a possibility of the trainers continuing to use auditory stimuli amidst claims of Morgan’s loss of hearing, I feel that this isn’t sufficient evidence to support any speculations of the conflicting claims of poor hearing yet continuing to use the bridge whistle. The session with Jose and Morgan at the slideout isn’t a good indicator of the possibility of a whistle being used as a bridge. Audio is edited and a trainer placing a bridge in his or her mouth doesn’t always mean guarenteed bridge. I was always “chewing on my whistle.” In fact, there is a video on YouTube with me and Halyn doing a hand target learn session for campers where I also go into explaining my habit to the group. I feel the more noteworthy points to take home from this video are that actions viewed are not quite lining up with the words being heard. Although the audio is edited over, I can tell you from the years I worked with him, Jose definitely was just as bad as me at “chewing on the whistle.” Most likely that would get chopped up to a trainer’s superstitious bad habit. There had been a video on YouTube with Rafa using his bridge while working Morgan that would better prove they don’t even really believe their own spin on Morgan’s deafness. It actually may have been one of the first installments of LP’s promo porn regarding Morgan. 🙂
Regardless of whether or not there’s a presence of auditory cues or that there is any substance to Morgan’s situation being compared to that of the whale euthanized by a shotgun blast, I feel the footage incorporated into this LoroParque PSA isn’t necessarily in line with the idealistic image they hope to achieve. Killer whale social structures are extremely dynamic and complex. Morgan’s unique variables contribute even more variables and complexities into this already delicate balance. I would think even an untrained eye would be able to identify the social happenings observed here as being anything but an all-in-all acceptance within her new pod.
This is like Kremlinology, from the bad old days. But it’s nice to have some real experts providing the analysis.