The long and emotional struggle to attain freedom for a young female orca named Morgan is over and the mammal will remain captive at the Spanish marine park Loro Parque, in Tenerife. A judge in Amsterdam ruled Thursday that a decision by the Dutch Minister to transport Morgan from a Dutch aquarium to Loro Parque was lawful.
Images showing Morgan at Parque Loro is courtesy of Dr. Ingrid Visser and protected by copyright law
This stems from the 2010 capture of Morgan in the Wadden Sea. She was sick and emaciated so she was delivered to the Dutch aquarium, where she was nursed back to health under the premise that she would eventually be released.
Instead Morgan was deemed non-releasable and transferred to Parque Loro, a facility described by renowned orca expert Dr. Ingrid Visser as an “evil and horrible abusement park.”
(Marine parks around the world are increasingly scrutinized by conservation groups for programs involving captive orcas and other cetaceans, especially where it pertains to mammals that were captured in the wild.)
The Dutch News reported after the ruling that the export license for Morgan’s transfer to Parque Loro “was granted on the grounds that the orca would be used for educational purposes” and paraphrases the judge as saying there are no indications that Morgan’s health is in jeopardy by staying at the amusement park.
The Orca Coalition, a consortium that has waged the fight to win freedom for Morgan, countered that Morgan is sometimes attacked by other orcas and is being taught to perform tricks, which violates terms of the export license.
Wietse van der Werf of the group Black Fish, which is part of the Orca Coalition, stated: “We are very disappointed with this verdict, to say the least. It is a tragic day for Morgan and a tragic day for marine wildlife in general, which continues to be over-exploited and threatened, often within the realms of the law.”
This bid to have Morgan freed was often contentious.
Six weeks ago, two days before Visser was set to present a comprehensive report on the condition of Morgan to the court, she was threatened with legal action by the marine park if the report was not retracted. This is according to the Digital Journal, which quotes the scientist as saying the wording in the legal notice was “a clear case of attempting to bully me and have me back down from what I was going to say in court.”
While the judge’s ruling represents a clear defeat for the Orca Coalition, it’s a triumph for Parque Loro and perhaps other facilities that benefit from featuring iconic marine mammals in their shows and exhibits, and which maintain that such exhibits help educate patrons and foster appreciation for all of the ocean’s creatures.
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