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Morgan’s Fate At Loro Parque

February 23, 2014

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A decision on whether Morgan, the lost young female orca, should remain at Loro Parque is due anytime, and could be released this Wednesday.

The arguments over Morgan have always been based on two completely different, and contradictory, narratives of her life at Loro Parque. Today, over on The Dodo, I took a look at what both sides claim regarding Morgan’s well-being, and how a pregnancy is the big wild card, and would seal her fate if it happens.

Here’s a key part of the story:

Loro Parque, in a statement e-mailed in response to a request for comment, calls Visser’s argument “erroneous and misleading,” as well as “emotionally charged. The statement goes on to try and rebut each of Visser’s claims one by one, and dismisses Visser’s work as an “animal activist opinion piece.” For Morgan, the statement flatly states, “negative welfare conditions do not exist.”

“I’m not an activist. I am a scientist who happens to care about the welfare of animals,” Visser responds. “There is a big difference.” Moreover, Visser’s research and conclusions about Morgan’s life at Loro Parque have won an interesting advocate in Jeff Foster, who spent decades catching killer whales, dolphins, and other animals for SeaWorld and other marine parks. Foster knows a lot about killer whales and how they handle captivity, and is not opposed to captivity for killer whales if they are well-integrated into a stable environment. After observing Loro Parque’s videos of Morgan he was initially skeptical that her experience at Loro Parque was as negative as Visser believes. But based on two trips to observe Morgan (the most recent was last Fall), Foster says he fully agrees that the group of SeaWorld killer whales at Loro Parque is dysfunctional, that Morgan has not been well-integrated, and that Morgan is suffering. “It’s pretty obvious. She’s crying out in distress almost all the time,” Foster says. “You usually don’t hear those vocals from animals unless they are really in distress. The only time I’ve heard them is when we were catching whales and separating them from their families.”

You can read the whole thing here.

Here’s a brief video, showing Morgan’s isolation during a show at Loro Parque earlier this year.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2014 2:20 pm

    Reblogged this on Sherlockian's Blog.

  2. February 23, 2014 4:49 pm

    Hey, Tim. Good news, hopefully, for Morgan. Hope Foster does her right.

  3. Pro Cap permalink
    March 11, 2014 12:30 pm

    I figure you should know the answers to this, since you’re the associate producer of Blackfish:
    What is being done with the profits from Blackfish? And how does Gabriela Cowperthwaite feel about the fact that her documentary “is not Dawn’s story” and that the Brancheau family doesn’t support the film? I find it funny that you haven’t posted about that…

    • March 12, 2014 9:35 am

      First, any money that was made from Blackfish was mostly made by the investors, and Magnolia/CNN. The actual film production crew did not make much money, if any. That is the nature of documentary film-making.

      I can’t speak for Gabriela, but I found the Brancheau family’s statement very interesting. Yes, they say that Blackfish is not Dawn’s film, and that is true. Mostly because the family chose not to participate in the film, but also partly because Blackfish was always going to be mostly about Tilikum and his life. At the same time they say they are grateful that Blackfish raises the question of animal welfare, for which I am grateful. They do say that Dawn believed the welfare of the animals at SeaWorld was being looked after, and there is little doubt in my mind that she did believe that, so I completely understand (and respect) their desire to emphasize that. But they do not actually criticize Blackfish or dismiss it in the way that SeaWorld does, which is notable (to me at least). The family suffered a terrible tragedy regardless of what you think of the wisdom and morality of killer whale captivity. And they have handled all the attention resulting from Dawn’s tragic death with class.

      • Pro Cap permalink
        March 12, 2014 11:58 am

        “Dawn Brancheau believed in the ethical treatment of animals. Dawn followed her dreams and became a marine animal trainer. She loved the whales and was proud of her work as a trainer. Dawn thrived on introducing the whales to the audience and educating them about the animals in her care. Dawn would not have remained a trainer at SeaWorld for 15 years if she felt that the whales were not well cared for. Trainer safety was important to Dawn, and it remains important to us as well”

        That, to me, says “Blackfish lies”. I know you have to defend the film as the associate producer, but it’s kind of ridiculous.

      • protecttheocean permalink
        March 12, 2014 1:03 pm

        I don’t really care what YOU think. You’ve already made your choice, and that “choice” means putting money in SW’s pocket, if you’re not actually in their employ, regardless of the consequence. You know them by name? REALLY? Gee, give that man a prize! You actually UNDERSTAND nothing about them. If you did, you’d realize that captivity is torture for them. This is not a matter of OPINION. You’re not choosing whether you want grey curtains or green ones in your bedroom. These are sentient, sapient, thinking, feeling beings that live as long as we do, have social lives at LEAST as complex as we do, have language that surpasses our own… and as such, we have ZERO right to force them to be captive, on display. No matter how many times you point to the fascinated children, it won’t be any less wrong to take their liberty from them and lock them into a tiny concrete puddle. YOu say you agree that they should not be at Loro, but just said you have been to SW SD 50+ times. So you’re sponsoring the captivity. You think that SD is not the same sort of hell for a being that swims 100-200 miles a day, can do 30+ MPH through water, and uses echolocation? Sorry, but you’re missing …well, pretty much everything. This isn’t about you ,or what you like, what you want. I’ve heard it too many times: “It’s sad, but my kids like it.”
        If facts are what you call a “rant”, that’s YOUR problem.
        As to the “hearing impairment”, whether it’s true or not, they are not ours to own. It’s pure hubris to think we should be “managing” them. Yeah, right, the clever humans. After all, we’ve done SO well at managing ourselves, right?
        There are plenty of people who can’t hear. They manage, they make do. If she cannot handle full liberty, she will choose to come back to us for food and other assistance. They’re NOT stupid. Meanwhile, it MUST be their choice.
        Would you be okay with someone deciding for you that you must be locked up because you’re hard of hearing? How about deciding for you that you should be the ambassador for humans, and putting you in a closet-sized air cube in the middle of the ocean, fed nasty old food and forced to swallow other chemicals, being made to do inane tricks for that meager and barely tolerable existence?
        The dorsal fin of the male orcas tells the story. The mortality rate tells the story. Captivity absolutely does kill them, cuts their lives short DRAMATICALLY. Stop being an apologist, and start recognizing that SW has sold you a pack of lies.
        Oh, and the next time you claim to care as much as I do, be prepared to show examples that go beyond knowing the names of all the orca slaves at SW SD. You wanna see kids fascinated? Get ’em out on a whale watching boat, seeing the Grey Whales as they migrate through, or a pod of a couple hundred dolphins. Above all else, get over the arrogant presumption that they are ours to do with or choose for.

    • March 12, 2014 11:06 am

      Let’s take an HONEST look at your question. First off, any profits realized would be minimal (as Tim has already told you.) The distributor is the one making money on Blackfish… and those of us involved in the issue of cetacean welfare don’t much mind or care, since they’re getting the truth out there.

      The story is NOT Dawn’s story. (She was one of THREE people killed by Tili.) It’s the story of Tilikum, and of all the other orcas and other dolphins in captivity. As Tim already explained, Dawn’s family has dealt with all of this publicity with admirable grace, but that doesn’t mean they would want to appear in or be involved in a film.

      A biologist and former Marineland “trainer” myself, I can tell you without reservation that captivity is NOT an acceptable answer for any intact cetacean, and that most of SeaWorld’s statements are blatant lies, told to hide the simple fact that captivity kills. The claim that “once captive always captive,” which is SW’s fallback spin on why they “can’t” release the cetaceans in their care, that’s another shill used to justify continuing to keep otherwise healthy beings in tanks for their profit. Right Whales were found in trouble back in the late 60’s or 70’s (going by memory now) and held on the east coast for some 9 months before being released. They were tracked for 3+ years, and were doing fine. Even Foster’s most famous release was still at liberty for a year and a half, crossed the Atlantic on his own. Though his dorsal fin never did recover (damage done by captivity on all male orcas) he managed to survive that long. If not for the long-term damages done by captivity (and all the OTC remedies given them to keep them alive in captivity) he might not have succumb to pneumonia… but that’s a DISEASE, which can happen to any living being.

      You asked about the money. Why aren’t you asking SW what they’re doing with over a billion a year? Why aren’t you mentioning how the family of the trainer killed at Loro Parque feels about it?

      It’s pretty clear to anyone paying attention that you’ve got an agenda. Tim may choose to indulge you, but I’m a bit more frank. If you want to be a SeaWorld apologist, go preach to that choir. There are plenty of self-absorbed jerks who will justify keeping orcas in captivity (and pay SeaWorld for enslaving them) with excuses like “I know, it’s sad, but my kids like it.” You should fit in just fine there. We’re far more interested in the truth here.

      Finally, this post is about Morgan. So take your pulpit elsewhere, unless you’d like to help get her out of Loro.

      • Pro Cap permalink
        March 12, 2014 12:06 pm

        I am so interested in the truth–not the misleading truth of Blackfish, but what’s real. I am not a “self-absorbed jerk”, I care about the animals just as much as you do. I’ve been to SeaWorld San Diego 50+ times in the last five years. I know all the whales by name. I’ve seen little kids who are absolutely FASCINATED by them. I would have posted my comment elsewhere on the website, on a more relevant post, but I wanted an answer from Tim and I didn’t know if he was still replying to comments on older posts. I agree that Morgan and the other SW whales should not be at Loro Parque. I don’t think that Morganshould be released. Here’s why:

        Try being patient with people who don’t share your opinion. If you go on a rant, you’ll just make people disagree with you even more.

        Have a nice day.

  4. protecttheocean permalink
    March 12, 2014 1:10 pm

    As to what Dawn did or didn’t believe… you share the same problem. Yes, they’re already captive. But you BOTH bought into the idea that it’s okay to be part of that problem. Dawn got paid for it, and certainly loved being with them. I did too. But I’m apparently a bit less selfish by design, because once I realized how much more they are than just clever fish, I couldn’t be a part of that, couldn’t be one of their jailers. Dawn couldn’t let go of being with them, even though she should have known it was wrong. I know all the justifications. I went through them myself for weeks on end. “If I leave, someone who doesn’t care as much will take my place and they’ll be worse off” was a big one, for example. But the bottom line is that it’s wrong, and nothing is ever going to make it right.
    You’re looking at this whole thing from the perspective of an outsider. I’m looking at it as someone who has been with them, worked with them, and interacted with them extensively… and I’m telling you flat out that captivity is WRONG. If you want to keep something captive, if that’s so very important to you, helps you to feel superior or important, get a dog. Or a chameleon. Or a tarantula. Leave sentient, SAPIENT beings out of it.

    • Pro Cap permalink
      March 13, 2014 5:02 pm

      You know, I would argue with you on this forever, but it wouldn’t do any good. Some people, like Howard Garrett, I have been able to argue with–and both sides are willing to listen to and respect each other. That, apparently is impossible with you. You don’t really care what I think, and then you call me selfish? “I don’t really care what YOU think” are the words of someone who’s actually selfish. You only want to hear one side–YOUR side–of the story, and that’s fine. Just don’t bully other people just because they don’t agree with you. I assume you’re an adult–you should’ve learned not to bully others in elementary school.

      I’ll still be commenting on this blog, but don’t expect me to argue with you on this anymore–at least not right now. You also might want to take a look at your “respect” for other people.

      • March 13, 2014 6:09 pm

        Agreed, there’s no point in further discussion. As to the snide remarks, all I have to say is that I don’t care what YOU think because your opinions are not qualified, and because this isn’t about you or me, or what we want or like, but about what is right for the orcas and other sentient, sapient beings being held captive. When you grasp that concept, you’ll also realize why you are so woefully wrong in all of your positions on the subject. This isn’t about ME being selfish at all; Respect, in this case, begins with respecting the cetaceans’ sovereignty, their right to self-determination, free from our arrogant presumptions that we would know what its best for them.

  5. Pro Cap permalink
    March 15, 2014 2:24 pm

    @ Spectrewriter–
    I was replying to protecttheocean…and if my opinions aren’t qualified, why are yours? You say “This isn’t about ME being selfish at all” but your statement that “I don’t care what YOU think because your opinions are not qualified” are the words of a selfish and prideful person. I respect your opinions, but I don’t respect your bullying.

    • March 15, 2014 2:51 pm

      Connect the dots, Pro Cap. I was writing from my SpectreWriter account, as opposed to the Protect The Ocean account. Same person, but it really doesn’t matter WHO wrote it. What matters is the validity of the content.
      My opinions are qualified because I’ve spent real one-on-one time with cetaceans, LOTS of it, over the years. You’ve been a spectator to a staged show 50 times. I’m a trained biologist, and have lived on the ocean for years. You live in San Diego and still go to SW instead of doing a whale-watching boat trip or learning to SCUBA dive. I founded and run a non-profit that keeps tabs on the ocean’s quality and her inhabitants. You get online and make apologist comments for a multi-billion dollar corporation that makes that money by enslaving and killing dolphins, from the smallest to the largest. So yes, your “opinions” are less qualified than mine, by a long shot.
      Prideful? Not at all. I’d like nothing more than to know that such places and actions never happen again. But the ugly truth is that there are places like Taiji all over the coast of Japan, and people in S.America killing dolphins to use their flesh as bait for other fish. The truth is that the Faroe Islands and Japan and a few others still kill cetaceans, even though there are many tons of whale flesh in freezers, unsold. I am glad of ALL the knowledge I have gained, because it gives me a more accurate, less myopic perspective of the world and what’s going on in it.
      Bullying? SERIOUSLY? While the dolphins are being rounded up and slaughtered, the pretty ones sold to places like SeaWorld, into a life of slavery, while orcas are being tortured, kept in those dungeons and fed fish that are a day or more dead? While all of that is going on so you can enjoy them doing some inane tricks, you call THIS bullying?
      I’m done with you. Come back when you pull your head out of your butt and see things as they really are. But please, DO go see them in the open ocean. See them frolicking as they should be, at liberty, swimming in straight lines, living with their families for 40-100 years… and then see how okay you are with them being in little concrete prison cells.
      Come back when you have something less selfish to express. It is YOU who is selfish for wanting them to be in captivity so you can come by and see one every so often. Until you recognize that fact, I have nothing more to say.

      • Pro Cap permalink
        March 15, 2014 4:23 pm

        “I’m done with you.” Good. I think this argument might get a little disrespectful on both sides. Have a good day.

        “Today a lady walked up to the exhibit and looked the killer whales, I’m assuming for the first time in her life. She began to cry and for quite a while couldn’t hold back the tears. I asked if this was her first time seeing whales and her son translated that it was and she was so happy and emotional. They watched a presentation and she smiled and wiped away the tears for over 10 minutes. Today we made an impact deeper than any words could have done!!”

      • protecttheocean permalink
        March 15, 2014 4:36 pm

        You just don’t get it. Big deal, “we” made an impact — at the price of an unwilling captive’s LIFE and FREEDOM? THEY AREN’T OURS! HUMANS DONT’ GET TO CHOOSE FOR THEM!
        SeaWorld Truth? Yeah, the propaganda, their spin machine. And you buy it? It SHOULD be tears at the terrible, horrible thing done to these magnificent beings.
        I make no assumptions about you. I go by what you have revealed and what you have presented. If you’re not being honest, that’s YOUR fault.

        I’ve made a clear argument. You’ve refuted exactly nothing… and I have far more productive things to do with my time. Goodbye.

  6. Pro Cap permalink
    March 15, 2014 4:24 pm

    By the way, protect the ocean, you sure make a lot of UNSUPPPORTED, biased assumptions about me.

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