The Morgan Decision

Apparently the judge bought the argument that Morgan is being used for research and education. Guess he or she has never been to a Loro Parque Orca Ocean show. I have, and what amazed me was that there was not a single fact about wild orcas in the show. Not one.

According to this story (and Google Translate):

Relocation orca Morgan not unlawfully

AMSTERDAM – The relocation of orca Morgan of the Dolphinarium in Harderwijk to Loro Parque, a park in Tenerife, was not unlawful.

Photo: Reuters

That the court in Amsterdam Thursday determined. The case was brought by the Orca Coalition, an alliance of animal activists, who wanted the animal in nature would be released.

Morgan was severely weakened in 2010 found in the Wadden Sea. The animal was brought to the Dolphinarium to recover. In 2011 it was announced that Morgan to Loro Parque in Tenerife should move, where all five other killer whales lived.

Then State Secretary Henk Bleacher gave a permit for the removal of Morgan to Tenerife. This was according to the Orca Coalition never happen.

The permit should only be issued if the goal was their research or teaching was that the protection or conservation of the species was intended. This is according to the court case. The park on Tenerife conducts research and performs an educational function, the judge said.

The Court sees no reason to believe that the welfare of Morgan danger in Tenerife. The Orca Coalition may, if they disagree, a case in Spain started.

PLUS: Comment from The Blackfish.

Orca Morgan: Ingrid Visser’s Presentation To The Dutch Court

Credit: Ingrid Visser

On Nov. 1, there was a hearing in the Netherlands to review the legal process by which Morgan was sent to Loro Parque in the Canary Islands. Dr. Ingrid Visser, on behalf of the Free Morgan Foundation testified on behalf of Morgan, arguing that Morgan’s life at Loro Parque violates the terms under which she was transferred, and that for Morgan’s well-being the decision to send Morgan to Loro Parque should be reversed.

You can read an account of the hearing (PDF) by the Free Morgan Foundation here.

You can read Visser’s full report on Morgan’s physical status at Loro Parque, submitted in advance of the hearing, here.

Here’s the statement that the Free Morgan Foundation and Visser are releasing along with her slide presentation to the Dutch hearing:


Dr Ingrid Visser presented startling new findings from her October visit to Loro Parque.  Following on the heels of the data and images submitted to the Amsterdam Court, from her June visit, Dr Visser returned to check on Morgan’s welfare.  Unfortunately, Visser has found that the intervening 19 weeks have showed not only an escalation in aggression from the other orca, but Morgan has begun to exhibit a stereotypical behaviour which has not been documented before.  In this case, Morgan repeatedly bashes her head against the side of a gate closing mechanism.  Additionally, Morgan’s boredom and stress have manifested themselves in an acceleration of tooth wear, with a third of some teeth now permanently damaged and the tops worn off.  Blue paint on the teeth clearly shows that Morgan is biting concrete below the water surface.  Trainers have been photographed ignoring Morgan whilst she vies for their attention.

And here is the presentation itself:

Morgan PSA

The Free Morgan Foundation–in addition to Ingrid Visser’s report on Morgan’s life at Loro Parque–has released a PSA.

It takes an interesting angle, and asks people to think about orca captivity, and Morgan’s captivity in particular, from a human lens.

I don’t know enough about the Dutch court system to comment intelligently on what to expect from this hearing, and whether the facts of Morgan’s life at Loro Parque–as documented by Visser (PDF download here, and also vieweable as a Scribd embed here)–will figure in their thinking. Or whether the judges are mostly interested in reviewing the legal process which sent Morgan to Loro Parque.

But if the facts do end up weighing in the judges’ minds, then all credit to Visser and the Free Morgan Foundation for working so hard to get the facts out there.

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.

Morgan’s Story

The Free Morgan Foundation, in advance of a new, Nov. 1, court hearing, has released a passionate PSA calling for Morgan’s release back into the wild.

Morgan’s story is a case study in how the cover of “rehabilitation” is sometimes used as a way to bring wild marine mammals into captivity, which is always looking to diversify the gene pool. I doubt Loro Parque or any other marine park would have been so eager to bring Morgan into their collection if the Judge that authorized that decision had said that she was not to be used for breeding.

Anatomy Of An Orca Transport: Cranes, Planes, And Automobiles

Keto At His Latest Destination (Credit: Estel Moore)There are killer whales on the move. Ike has been transported from Marineland to SeaWorld San Diego. A rescued killer whale called Morgan is threatened with transport from the Netherlands to Loro Parque, unless a judge blocks it (ruling will be issued Nov. 21). And I’ve been getting word that there might be other transfers within the SeaWorld park system.

For those of you who can’t imagine what it is like to ship an orca, or have never seen what is involved, here is a set of pics from my friend KC. They show Keto being crated for transport, from SeaWorld San Diego to SeaWorld Ohio, in April 2000. Keet and Sumar were moved at the same time.

For background, Keto was born at SeaWorld Orlando in June 1995, shipped to SeaWorld San Diego in June 1999, then to Ohio in 2000, then on to SeaWorld San Antonio in February 2001, and finally to Loro Parque in the Canary Island in February 2006. It was at Loro Parque that Keto killed trainer Alexis Martinez in 2009.

It’s impossible to imagine what must go on in the mind of an orca, a creature of the sea that is already in the alien world of humans, as it is slinged, crated, trucked, and flown to a new marine park pool. According to Keto’s profile, he struggled to acclimate at Sea World San Diego and showed aggressive tendencies towards trainers, so very little waterwork, and no show waterwork, was done with him there. When he was moved to SeaWorld Ohio, it took him longer than Keet and Sumar to acclimate and respond to trainers, but he did eventually become a reliable waterwork animal. And by the time he was sent to SeaWorld San Antonio he seemed to have the transfer routine down, acclimating quickly and doing show waterwork within two months of arrival.

Here’s the SeaWorld San Diego end of the Ohio move.

The crane arrives…

Lifting high in the sling…

Toward the transport container…

In the transport container…

Sumar and Keto ready for trucking…

And here is a video which shows Keto landing in the Canary Islands, and arriving at Loro Parque:

%d bloggers like this: