Heartbreaking Truth Behind Video of Captive Orca, Morgan, Smashing Her Head Against Tank

April 28, 2016

“Monday left me broken, Tuesday I was through with hoping…”

The lyrics from Avicii’s “Waiting for Love” can be heard playing over the Orca Ocean stadium speakers at Loro Parque as a young orca bashes her head, over and over again, off the gates of her tiny tank. The song is loud to entertain the paying tourists, but it is not loud enough to drown out the sound of skull smashing off of metal or the orca’s frantic screeches.

This disturbing behavior was witnessed earlier this month at the entertainment park in Tenerife, Spain, which is one of only two parks in the European Union still keeping orcas captive. Loro Parque currently has six orcas, five of which are on loan from SeaWorld, USA. As such, they are included in SeaWorld’s recent decision to ban its orcas from breeding.

The sixth orca, known as Morgan, was born in the wild. In June 2010, she was found swimming alone and emaciated off the Dutch coast and taken to the Dolfinarium Harderwijk in the Netherlands for rehabilitation and release. Instead of being returned back to her native Norwegian waters, Morgan was sent to Loro Parque. Just today, Loro Parque announced that the orca hurtling herself at the tank gates in the video is Morgan.

But why would Morgan – or any orca – do this? Margaux Dodds, Marine Connection Director and Campaigns Coordinator for the Dolphinaria-Free Europe coalition, is deeply concerned for Morgan’s welfare: “She is confined in what looks like a medical tank showing signs of either frustration at being confined or aggression towards the orca on the other side of the gate.” The medical tank at Loro Parque is only 12.4x7x4.2m, while Morgan is more than 4m long and some of the other orcas are even bigger.

Why Morgan was locked inside Loro Parque’s smallest orca tank has not been disclosed, but Loro Parque has claimed that “all we see [in the video] is that Morgan wants to open the door to… be with Tekoa.” Tekoa is the other orca visible in the video and he was one of the original captive-born orcas transported from SeaWorld to Loro Parque in 2006.

As well as calling the video a “manipulation” that is part of a “smear campaign,” Loro Parque asserted that its own veterinarians, as well as visiting veterinary and animal welfare professionals, have found that its captive orcas are not stressed. However, in the same statement, Loro Parque blamed “sexual frustration” as the cause of Morgan’s behavior. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, an animal’s welfare cannot be protected if its needs are frustrated.

Loro Parque has also confirmed that the banging heard in the video is the sound of Morgan “pushing strongly” at the gate, which she appears to be doing with her head.

“Head banging” is frequently observed in captive orcas and has been identified as a stereotypic (abnormal repetitive) behavior born out of frustration and stress. When these stereotypic behaviors cause self-inflicted physical harm, it is known as self-mutilation. A report by orca expert Dr. Ingrid Visser, who co-founded the Free Morgan Foundation, details how at least one orca at Loro Parque has been self-mutilating – that orca is Morgan.

The report also documented aggression between the orcas at Loro Parque, who are considered to be the most dysfunctional group of captive orcas in the world. The constructed artificial environments of captivity exacerbate conflict between orcas as there is nowhere to escape. However, if Morgan was displaying aggressive behavior, it may not have been aimed at Tekoa.

John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld orca trainer and supervisor of orca training at Marineland Antibes, has analyzed the video and found that, “It is unlikely that the orcas in the video are trying to displace each other as Tekoa does not appear to be vocalizing or ramming the gate back. The vocalizations that you can hear from Morgan, however, are very distinct in their sound and are indicative of a highly upset and aggressive whale; not a whale who is panicked or otherwise.”

Reinforcing the fact that head banging often results in self-inflicted physical injuries, Hargrove explained, “Slamming or ramming gates this hard is common with captive orcas and can lead to injury by fracturing their teeth, knocking out a tooth altogether and causing gashes and cuts to the animal’s rostrum. In extreme cases, it can completely slice the tip of the rostrum off, requiring weeks to heal.” Hargrove added, “It is also certainly possible that this behavior can cause hemorrhaging and ultimately death.”

Hargrove recounted how other captive orcas have died from ramming their heads into the sides of tanks and ramming each other. “You must realize that the force at which Morgan is slamming her head into the steel bars is comparable to if she were slamming her head with unbelievable force into concrete,” Hargrove described, noting that it’s subsequently “Not hard to understand how serious and dangerous this behavior is – and it is related to captivity.”

Given the severity of Morgan’s situation, Dodds believes that SeaWorld, the entertainment park claiming ownership of Morgan, should be obliged to give “an explanation as to why she was confined in the medical tank in the first place.” And this would be especially welcome in light of Loro Parque’s comment that the video shows “a completely normal situation in which there is no problem for the animals.”

At this time, it remains unclear why Loro Parque made the decision on that day, at that time, to put Morgan in the medical tank. The blaring music might suggest that she was locked inside while some of the other orcas performed tricks in an entertainment show for the public; this has previously happened to Keto, the large male who killed his trainer.

Or perhaps there was another motivation. The current unrest between Loro Parque and SeaWorld may have factored into Loro Parque’s decision. The Spanish entertainment park has made it crystal clear that it opposes SeaWorld’s decision to end the orca breeding program, claiming that the “permanent prevention of the reproduction of wild animals under human care is an action that goes against the very cycle of life and well-being of the animals.”

Despite this statement, Loro Parque does not appear to consider that the permanent prevention of the freedom and choice of the wild animals under its human care is an action that also goes against the very cycle of life and well-being of the animals – that the orcas have other needs and those needs are frustrated in captivity.

Evidence of this is apparent in the horrific video of Morgan crying, thrashing and beating her head against the tank gates as pop music fills the air around her.

Now that SeaWorld has stopped breeding its orcas, the fate of the orcas at Loro Parque, and particularly Morgan, seems uncertain. And it will remain this way until SeaWorld and Loro Parque release further information. In the meantime, let’s just hope Avicii’s words ring true – that there is, “In every lost soul, the bones of a miracle.”

Source: OneGreenPlanet.org


SeaWorld San Antonio hopes to hook big crowds with largest investment ever

April 26, 2016

SeaWorld San Antonio has set a date for the opening of its new Discovery Point development. Park guests will get their first look at the interactive dolphin habitat on May 21.

Discovery Point will be twice the size of SeaWorld San Antonio’s existing dolphin habitat. And while company officials have not disclosed the price tag for the new venue, they have confirmed this is the largest capital investment in the Alamo City theme park’s 27-year history.

Chris Bellows, vice president of zoological operations for SeaWorld San Antonio, said Discovery Point will help create a “deeper understanding of the importance of protecting these amazing animals and their ocean habitat.”

Discovery Point has been modeled after SeaWorld Orlando’s Discovery Cove park in Florida. It will have a tropical setting that connects the venue with a newly renovated Explorer Reef aquarium.

Last spring, SeaWorld San Antonio closed the northern part of the park to make way for construction of Discovery Point. Company officials said the new venue will become a hub for sea lion and beluga whale interaction programs. It will also feature the San Antonio park’s first underwater viewing area.

The San Antonio theme park’s parent company, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.(NYSE: SEAS), has plenty riding on Discovery Point and its other investments. It’s trying to regain some momentum after years of turbulence from the release of “Blackfish,” a controversial film that focused on SeaWorld’s alleged treatment of marine life and the death of one of its trainers.

In February, SeaWorld Entertainment reported that 22.47 million guests passed through the gates at its theme parks in 2015, compared to 22.40 million the previous year.

The company reported a net income of $49.1 million last year, compared to $49.9 million in net income for 2014.

SeaWorld is not entirely out of the stormy waters that have rocked the company. On April 29, 2013 — before the release of “Blackfish,” SeaWorld stock was trading at more than $33 per share. When the markets opened on Tuesday, SeaWorld stock was trading at $19.82 per share.

In March, SeaWorld Entertainment announced that the company has ended breeding of killer whales — or orcas — and that the whales currently in its care will be the last generation at its parks.

New SeaWorld San Antonio President Carl Lum said the company is evolving, working to create experiences through investments such as Discovery Point that can “inspire guests and change minds, hearts and lives forever.”

Source: bizjournals.com

A group of friends out kayaking in Tauranga harbour were treated to rare sighting of a pod of orca whales – featuring local celebrity whale, Pickles.

April 30, 2016

Jade Buitendag and her friends had originally set out on their kayaking mission in search of eagle rays, but were happy none the less with the substitute they discovered.
“After kayaking around for a bit we were blessed with a visit from a pod of orca whales, including the well known Pickles,” Ms Buitendag said.
“What a privilege to live in the world’s most beautiful country.”
Killer whales can be found in all oceans but studies suggest they seem to prefer coastal waters and cooler regions.

Click on the link bellow to see VIDEO

Source: tvnz.co.nz

Drones over Puget Sound orcas: Legal or illegal?

April 28, 2016

People come to the San Juans to get up close and personal with the whales, but how close is too close?

“We looked up and there was a drone about 20 to 30 yards above the water, directly above a pod of whales,” said Sgt. Russ Mullins of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.

That case involves Mercer Island photographer Douglas Shih, and his drone, last year.

“One of the things we’re concerned with is drone operators getting distracted and creating a close quarters situation where you could potentially even have a strike with a whale,” said Sgt. Mullins.

Shih and his attorney, Stephen Brandli, fought the ticket, eventually getting the case dropped. They argued the law, which states “vessels and other objects” can’t come within 200 yards of a killer whale, is too vague.

It doesn’t specifically mention drones, or anything that flies.

“If I fly a kite, and some law enforcement officer decides that red kite disturbs the whales, he could technically cite me,” said Brandli.

Further complicating matters is the FAA, which makes the rules about things that fly, but is not clear on this issue.

What is clear is the issue isn’t going away.

“It’s an evolving issue,” said Mullins. “It’s complicated.”

Just an hour after the Shih incident last August, another drone pilot was ticketed.

San Juan County prosecutor Randy Gaylord has asked the state attorney general for an opinion on the issue, but any changes in the law would have to go through the state legislature.

Clarification can’t come soon enough in the San Juans, with another busy whale watching season on the horizon.

Source: 12News.com

Loro Parque responds to video posted on DolphinProject.net

April 27, 2016

The following was translated and reposted from Loro Parque’s blog

The video published by The Dolphin Project on their website is a new attempt at manipulation through exaggeration and dramatization of a completely normal situation and that is no problem for animals.

In the video shown Morgan (within the medical pool) and Tekoa in the pool B interacting through the door. The interpretation that Morgan is suffering a panic attack is completely incorrect and malicious, all we see is that Morgan wants to open the door to access the pool B and be with Tekoa. When any of these animals (Morgan now exceeds 2,200 kg and 2,700 kg Tekoa’s) push the door shut produce punches heard in the video.

The interpretation of a panic attack is completely ridiculous, orcas are trained daily to enter and remain quiet within medical pools, since it is an essential element for veterinarians to make routine examinations of animals or treat them when some of they are sick. In the same way a spider dog a door when you enter another room, orcas push the doors when they want access to another pool. It is surprising that advocates to end breeding in human care orcas be offended because of these images, precisely because sexual frustration at not being able to access the pool where orcas of the opposite sex to copulate can trigger this type of behavior.

Increasingly, some self-proclaimed animal rights organizations are dedicated to launch these smear campaigns without any proven information based on the welfare and health of animals. Loro Parque orcas are under the care of our team of veterinarians, and receive regularly visited by veterinary experts of cetaceans and medicine inspection by the competent authorities in animal welfare. None of these professionals has found that stress and cruelty allegations are true. There is no doubt that the interest of the organizations conducting these public defamation campaigns is simply to get donations, but not for the welfare of the animals, but for their own welfare and benefit.
In the last 22 years thanks to the work of a zoo internationally recognized for its quality as Loro Parque has been possible to invest more than 16 million dollars in the conservation of endangered species on our planet. The most important success of this work was to get two parrot species critically endangered, and help many others to increase their small populations and not disappear forever. What are the achievements of The Dolphin Project in the conservation of biodiversity? How much money have invested in the conservation of the most endangered species? How many species have been saved? The terrible paradox is that not only have not helped to preserve nature, but aim to destroy those who work daily to save species from extinction. How can then call themselves animal lovers?

Source: Loro Parque Blog

I happen to agree with Loro Parque when they say that Morgan wasn’t panicking. To me it looks like she is frustrated at not having access to Tekoa.

The question becomes why was she denied access to Tekoa. If it was because she had been kept away from Tekoa. If it is due to aggression or something of that nature the separation is understandable but still concerning. She is hitting the gate loud enough to be audible from across the complex.

If not to protect Tekoa from Morgan why put Morgan in a situation where she would do bodily harm to herself? Loro Parque’s post itself states that this behavior is “common place.” How is it not a priority for Loro Parque to do everything they can to stop Morgan’s self destructive behavior. Put her with Tekoa.

The park claims the separation is the result of the breeding ban that SeaWorld has self imposed and then goes on to blame activists for the move. There are chemical methods to keep orca from conceiving (look in Beneath the Surface), it’s bad animal welfare to remove and isolate Morgan under the false excuse of preventing pregnancy.


April 26, 2016

Is This Morgan?

Shot by an anonymous activist, this new, shocking footage shows one of the orcas at Loro Parque, a zoo located in Tenerife, Spain, panicking in a small medical pool.

The orca is obviously in huge distress and rams its head forcefully against the metal gate in what seems to be an attempt to escape. Loro Parque is the largest tourist attraction in Spain. SeaWorld owns all six orcas at the park, including Morgan who was captured off the coast of the Netherlands in June of 2010. The orcas at Loro Parque are trained to perform for food several times a day in front of large, cheering audiences. This video shows the amount of stress and cruelty imposed on orcas as a result of confinement to small, barren tanks.

Ric and I traveled to Loro Parque last year to carry out an investigation of Loro Parque’s orca display, which ironically, is called “Orca Ocean.” We were shocked at the poor living conditions and commercial exploitation of the orcas and bottlenose dolphins there.

Click the link below to watch the video of the incident on Dolphin Project.net

Source: DolphinProject.net

Twitter later identified Morgan as the orca in the med pool and Tekoa on the other side of the gate.

Personally to me it doesn’t look as though Morgan is panicking in the med pool but rather that she wants access to Tekoa and is frustrated that she can’t reach him. The question for me is if she wanted companionship or wanted to start an aggressive incident with him.

Activists fight to free Lolita the whale after 46 years of captivity

April 24, 2016


Everyone’s heard of Free Willy, but what about “Free Lolita”?

A killer whale that has been held in a tiny pool for over 46 years is the property of an investment firm in London, according to activists who have stepped up a campaign for her release.

Lolita, who was captured in 1970 off the North West coast, has lived days and nights in a tank measuring around 50 foot wide and 20 foot deep – around the same size as a hotel swimming pool. She is thought to be the whale that has been held the longest in captivity.

Her life started off with trauma. According to One Green Planet, the men who herded up the pod of orca whales in 1970 used nets, ropes and explosives to separate the adults from the babies. During the capture, five whales were killed.

Lolita now lives in Miami Seaquarium in Florida, owned by Arle Capital, an investment company based near the Pall Mall in central London.

“We assert that the conditions of Lolita’s captivity violates America’s Endangered Species Act prohibiting harm or harassment of an endangered animal,” said Howard Garrett, of Orca Network, the US-based organisation that is leading a lawsuit to move Lolita to a marine refuge, as reported byThe Sunday Times.

Animal rights protesters have already gathered outside the offices of Arle Capital, which could prove embarrassing for its managing partner John Arney and his colleagues, who control around £2 billion worth of assets.

The company acquired Lolita when it bought Spanish entertainment company Parques Reunidos, which in turn owns Palace Entertainment, the firm behind Seaquarium.

According to Seaquarium’s website, “conservation and education go hand in hand”.

The Florida attraction is estimated to make annual profits of around £750,000. Lolita performs seven days a week for visitors.

Julie Foster, a spokeswoman for Arle, said vets make sure Lolita is healthy and the pool fits legal requirements.

“It would be a reckless and cruel experiment [to take her out of the tank] which would put her through a traumatic transport process and jeopardise her life,” she said. “Each year more than 85,000 schoolchildren and 600,000 other guests visit Miami Seaquarium to see and learn about Lolita.

“We believe that this remarkable, educational experience creates awareness and appreciation for orcas and marine life in general.”

The fight to free Lolita has been going on for years, involving groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which sued Seaquarium last year. The movement gained momentum after the release of documentary “Blackfish” which exposed the cruel treatment of the whales.

Orca whales are very sociable and swim in tight-knit pods. Her former companion whale, Hugo, died in the same tank 34 years ago, after continually bashing his head against the side of the tank.

Opponents of the release plan point to other whales who were set free and died as a result. The whale Keiko was released near Iceland in 2002 but died after it was rejected by other orcas.

Source: Independent.co.uk

Killer Whales Hunting Gray Whales, Video

April 23, 2016

There’s a reason they’re called “killer whales.”

A video posted to YouTube shows a group of at least seven killer whales chasing and attacking two gray whales – a mother and her calf. Onlookers said that the mother put up a brave fight, but unfortunately she was unable to save her baby.

The hunt lasted hours and covered several miles, just off the shore in Monterey. According to Monterey Bay Whale Watch, who shot the video, footage showing killer whales in predatory action so close to people is rare.

In the last month, however, the giant whales have been flocking to hunt on  ammals in the Monterey Bay. It’s likely they were tracing the migration patterns of gray whale calves and mothers from Baja, Mexico.

Those who recorded the video say that the mother gray whale, who survived the attack, circled the area and charged the whales after baby perished.

Source: NBCBayArea.com

Report: Tar Sands Shipping in the Salish Sea is a “Recipe for Disaster”

April 22, 2016

The author of a new report on tar sands shipments says that increased shipments could be the final harpoon in the back of our endangered resident killer whales.

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, odds are you’ve heard of “bomb trains”—the infamous nickname given to long trains carrying volatile shipments of North Dakota crude oil to West Coast refineries. There’s a much smaller chance that you’ve heard anyone talking about “articulated barges.”

The lack of attention given to articulated barges—or, more broadly, tar sands crude oil transport on the Salish Sea—is something that frustrates Fred Felleman, the co-author of a new report about the dangers of tar sands shipments between Canada and refineries in Puget Sound. Felleman, who is aSeattle port commissioner as well as an environmental consultant for Friends of the Earth, says that tar sands shipments in local waters are a “recipe for disaster.”

Over the last year, Felleman and the report’s co-author, Friends of the Earth’s Marcie Keever, have been studying oil shipments in the Salish Sea. They found that while the overall volume of oil on the water has decreased, the number of trips by vessels known as articulated barges (ATBs) has increased. Unlike regular barges, ATBs are tugs that directly attach to the back of other tugs instead of being towed by a cable behind them. ATBs can sometimes also carry more oil than barges, but aren’t treated like oil tankers, which are subject to certain environmental regulations meant to prevent spills.

“From a risk perspective, there’s more shipments of oil on the water, even though the volume of just crude oil is down,” Felleman says.

Unlike the light, sweet crude transported out of the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, tar sands crude is heavy—and it sinks. On water, tar sands crude poses asignificant threat to local ecosystems. The dilbit crude can stay in sediments for years, and it’s near impossible to clean up.

If Canada, the Kinder Morgan/Trans Mountain pipeline connects tar sands producers in Alberta to an export terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia. Shipments leave BC and work their way down Washington waterways to the US oil refinery in Tacoma. If the Canadian government allows Kinder Morgan totriple its capacity of the pipeline, as the company has proposed, Felleman predicts a seven-fold increase in tar sands shipments through the Salish Sea.

“We go from one tanker a week to one tanker a day,” Felleman says. “Which to me is the final harpoon in the back of our endangered resident killer whales.”

Last year, the Washington state legislature passed an oil transportation safety bill that originally included a provision for ATBs, but that provision was stripped out by the time the bill became law. Had the provision stuck, ATBs would have to be escorted by other tugs in case something went wrong and an ATB had to be towed to shore.

“We absolutely need to be worried about dirty, sticky tar sands oil coming across our waterways, and we need to act,” Representative Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle) told me last year. “The oil-industry-backed Republican senate refused to negotiate on the marine side.”

If Kinder Morgan is approved, Washington’s waterways will bear the consequences. Felleman stresses that when that time comes, Washingtonians won’t simply be able to blame the Canadians. He says: “We need to engage our senators to make sure that [Canada’s President] Trudeau doesn’t deal us under the table.”

Source: TheStranger.com

SeaWorld Drops Lawsuit Against State Over Breeding Ban

April 19, 2016

The operator of SeaWorld San Diego announced Tuesday that it will drop a lawsuit that challenged the authority of the California Coastal Commission to regulate animal welfare issues.

The commission in October approved a project to expand orca tanks at the San Diego theme park, but only under the condition that the practice of breeding killer whales be stopped.

SeaWorld executives called the condition an overreach and contended that animal welfare is governed by federal and state laws that do not fall within the jurisdiction of the commission’s board.

However, the company announced last month that it would no longer breed its orcas or pursue the tank expansion project.

In a letter sent to the commission on Monday, SeaWorld officially withdrew its coastal development permit for the expansion and said the legal action was no longer warranted.

“SeaWorld counsel soon will contact Coastal Commission counsel to discuss dismissal of the pending litigation,” the letter said.

SeaWorld has been under strong pressure in recent years from animal rights advocates and their political supporters to reform how its marine mammals are handled.

Included in last month’s announcement was the formation of a partnership with the Humane Society of the United States to educate visitors about animal welfare and conservation issues through programs at the parks and expanded advocacy for whales, seals and other marine creatures in the wild.

Source: TimesOfSandiego.com