Skip to content
All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Green Whale
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Scottish Dolphin Centre
  • Stop whaling
Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whales are targeted by Icelandic whalers

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...

Orca Morgan gives birth at theme park, Loro Parque

On the morning of Saturday, September 22nd, Morgan gave birth. An orca being born should be a happy event, but no one is celebrating, except perhaps those that will make money from exploiting this new little calf.

Let’s explore why this not good news.

In November 2011, a wild orca from Norway was shipped to a marine park in Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Morgan, as the young female was called, had been found alone and malnourished off the coast of the Netherlands in 2010 and taken to the dolphinarium in Harderwijk to be nursed back to health and then released back into the wild.

Subsequently, however, and the subject of much controversy, Harderwijk then announced that she wasn’t suitable for release. A long court battle began. Orca experts from around the world developed a multi-stage release plan for Morgan, including the option of a long-term sanctuary, but this wasn’t recognised by the courts in the Netherlands. Instead, Morgan was shipped to Tenerife where she is held in captivity at a theme park called Loro Parque, together with five other orcas.

In April 2018 the District Court in Utrecht, Netherlands, ruled that Morgan’s transfer to Loro Parque was legal. The Free Morgan Foundation had requested the annulment of the transfer permit due to controversy about the purposes the transport was allowed for – her transfer was justified for scientific purposes, yet shortly after arriving at Loro Parque, Morgan was used in shows. Then, in December 2017 it was announced that she was pregnant and this weekend she had her baby.

Apart from the fact that her calf is destined to live a short life in a tank, this perpetuates the cycle of orca captivity. Morgan’s calf is unlikely ever to be a candidate for release, because he or she (we still don’t know) will have mixed genes – the male orcas at Loro Parque are of Icelandic origin while Morgan comes from a population living in the waters off Norway. To make things even more difficult, Morgan wasn’t with her family group in the wild long enough to learn how to raise a calf – she was practically a baby herself when she was taken into captivity. Previous calves born at Loro Parque have had to be hand-reared by staff (one died) and also Loro Parque claims that Morgan is deaf. 

On June 19, Free Morgan Foundation chair, Dr. Ingrid Visser and lawyer, Matthew Spiegl travelled to Brussels to speak to Members of the European Parliament  about the lack of clarity involved in the process of issuing permits for individuals like Morgan. It is hoped that the introduction of a requirement to clearly state the reason for such transfers would prevent similar trade in orcas and other protected species between EU Member States.

What has happened to Morgan, and now her baby, is a tragedy but one that we hope will never be repeated.

Please support our efforts to end captivity.