Judges to rule on Morgan's future as orca's fate returns to court
22 January 2018 - 2:42pm
In June 2010 a young female orca was found off the coast of the Netherlands. She was malnourished and alone so she was captured under a rehabilitation and release permit. Almost eight years later Morgan, as she was named, is still in captivity. In November 2011 she was transported to the privately owned Loro Parque on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain. Despite a detailed release plan drafted by orca experts from around the world and a court case filed in the Netherlands, Morgan’s situation has worsened over time. The latest news coming from Spain is alarming as Loro Parque confirmed that Morgan, still a juvenile, is pregnant.
Morgan is held with five other orcas. Four of whom were sent to Spain from SeaWorld Parks in the USA in 2006 and one was born at Loro Parque in 2010. Up until September 2017 these orcas were ‘owned’ by SeaWorld Entertainments. Morgan also appeared in their inventory in 2012. Following years of campaigning by WDC and other groups, and in the wake of the documentary, Blackfish, which brought the horror of captivity to an audience of millions, in March 2016, SeaWorld ended its orca breeding programme. More recently, following reports that Loro Parque did not agree with SeaWorld’s new policy on orca breeding, SeaWorld handed over ownership of all six orcas to Loro Parque in what appears to be a shady deal that can be found buried in SeaWorld’s recent Quarter 3 report. Only a few weeks later, Morgan’s pregnancy was confirmed.
Over the years, evidence has come to light suggesting Morgan’s welfare is compromised at Loro Parque. Yet, the zoo defends her captivity, arguing that she has a hearing impairment and is not a suitable candidate for release. Now a new court date has been set for Morgan in the Netherlands. On 23 January, 2018 a panel of three judges in Utrecht will look at new evidence that has emerged since the last court decision in April 2014 which upheld Morgan’s incarceration at Loro Parque. The case will also aim to address concerns that Loro Parque was only permitted to hold Morgan for conservation and research purposes, which it is clearly not meeting. Morgan’s captivity does not benefit wild orcas in any way, nor does it contribute to research. She is being commercially exploited and this wasn’t the deal.
Talking about ‘release’ in relation to captive whales and dolphins does not mean dropping them back into the ocean to fend for themselves. Detailed plans are needed for any whale or dolphin with the potential for release, and not all will be suitable. However, sanctuaries would provide the ex-captive whales and dolphins with a life outside a concrete tank, without shows and loud music in a more natural environment. WDC has been working for several years now to establish sanctuaries for belugas and bottlenose dolphins, whilst supporting the work of others to establish a project for orcas. We hope that the option of retirement to a sanctuary will be considered for every individual in the future, including Morgan.
WDC will be following Morgan’s court case very closely and we’ll report back on the outcome soon. We will also let you know what action you can take to give poor Morgan a brighter future.
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