Morgan’s Fate At Loro Parque

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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.

Two Dolphins Go Back To The Sea

Mostly we take dolphins FROM the sea. We put them in marine parks, we charge tourists to watch them do tricks and to swim with them, and we often breed them to produce more dolphins that can stock the parks. So it is pretty cool when there is an attempt to take captive dolphins and send them in the other direction: back to the wild.

It’s a process that is highly complex (the dolphins have to be taught how to hunt for themselves again, among other things), and many argue that returning marine park dolphins to the wild puts their lives at risk. So we should pay close attention to what is happening with Tom and Misha, two dolphins who have been rescued from a filthy pool in Turkey, rehabilitated and prepared for release by marine mammal experts, and set free in the Aegean.

Tom and Misha are part of an expensive, ambitious and risky program sponsored by the UK-based Born Free Foundation, which is aiming to prove that captive dolphins can be reintroduced to the wild.

For more than a year, Foster and his team worked in a quiet cove on the Aegean, teaching the two dolphins how to catch their own food. He said the intensive training was necessary to get the dolphins ready to fend for themselves.

“It would be like taking your dog and releasing it into the woods,” Foster said. “If you don’t prepare your dog for that, it would never happen.”

When Foster first met these dolphins more than a year ago, he said they would eat only if humans placed dead fish directly in their mouths.

“We had literally thousands of fish in the pen, and they just wouldn’t look at them,” Foster said. “They had just been so used to being hand-fed in a captive situation that they did not recognize fish as a food source.”

If they can survive, and even thrive in the wild, it will help establish that marine park releases, for dolphins that are good candidates, are viable. So far, Tom Continue reading “Two Dolphins Go Back To The Sea”