3:29 PM EDT, May 4, 2016
Animal activists are outraged over a video they say shows a killer whale in captivity banging its head against a gate.
Last week, the Dolphin Project released video of what they say depicts an orca “panicking.” The footage was taken by an anonymous visitor at Loro Parque, a top tourist attraction in Tenerife, Spain.
It shows Morgan the killer whale, who is owned by SeaWorld, inside a medical tank where she forcefully hits the barrier that separates her and a larger tank that normally houses the orcas.
According to the Dolphin Project, “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… This video shows the amount of stress and cruelty imposed on orcas as a result of confinement to small, barren tanks.”
Loro Parque told InsideEdition.com in a statement that the Dolphin Project’s interpretation of the video is incorrect, and an “attempt at manipulation through exaggeration and dramatization of a completely normal situation in which there is no problem for the animals.”
It added that Morgan, who is a wild-born killer whale from the Netherlands, was simply trying to reach the male killer whale Tekoa, who was in the larger tank. The zoo wrote that Morgan was not acting in “panic” but out of “sexual frustration.”
While the sounds of her banging against the tank might be disconcerting, Loro Parque stated that any mammal as heavy as Morgan, who weighs 2,200 kilograms, would cause a ruckus by pushing against the tank.
Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, called the zoo’s claim that Morgan was acting out of sexual frustration “disgusting,” and says the claim is “completely unsupported by an understanding of orca behavioral biology,” she told InsideEdition.com.
Instead, she believes that Morgan might have been acting out of frustration due to being in captivity. “Everything you see in that video is ‘I want out,'” she said. “The whale banging her head on the gate suggested frustration. I’m sure it hurts — she was acting in a self-harming way, out of frustration.”
“She probably knows she can’t get out just by banging her head on the gate — they are smart like that,” Dr. Rose continued, comparing leaving Morgan in the tank to trapping a human being in a closet. “She’s probably doing it because she’s got no other outlet for that frustration.”
But she said she also disagrees with the Dolphin Project’s finding that Morgan is “panicking,” calling it an “over interpretation.”
“If the whale was panicking, there would be more white water and splashing,” Rose said. “You don’t really see that. You see ‘bang bang.’ It’s very directed.”
In a press statement to InsideEdition.com, Seaworld, which owns the killer whales at Loro Park responded: “The animals are cared for and trained by Loro Parque’s zoological team. We consult regularly with them on veterinary care, husbandry and training, and have enjoyed a long association with them on conservation programs, animal rescue and scientific research.”