Friday: June 10, 2016
Morgan the orca captured international attention when she was caught on video stranding herself on a concrete ledge by her pool. The beached killer whale lay there for at least 10 minutes, ignoring trainers’ signals to get back in the water.
Morgan’s actions created a firestorm of reactions on the internet, including speculation that the SeaWorld-owned orca was attempting suicide.
More of a stir was created on Wednesday when another video was released showing Morgan leaving the pool again, this time remaining beached for nine minutes. Eventually, she does return to the water, but she is back on the ledge again 42 seconds later. Witnesses describe her being body-slammed by the other whales in the pool.
The new video caused more talk of orca suicide. But Morgan, according to experts cited by National Geographic, is likely trying to save her life rather than end it.
Ingrid Visser, a marine biologist with the Orca Research Trust in New Zealand, said that Morgan is escaping attacks by beaching herself.
“She’s coming out to avoid antagonistic behavior from other orcas.”
“She is kept with the most dysfunctional group of orca in the world.”
The orca lives in a tank with other whales who were allegedly never evaluated for social compatibility.
One of Morgan’s tank mates is Keto, a male featured in the movie Blackfish, who killed his trainer Alexis Martinez in 2009.
Keto is a 20-year-old male bull orca who was known as a “punk” when he was younger, according to the site Cetacousin. Keto was born at SeaWorld in Orlando and was moved from there when he was 3-and-a-half-years-old, in order to “correct his bad habits.”
At San Diego, he reportedly was doing better, but he still “loved to play rough with the other orcas.”
Keto, whose name means “Sea Monster” in Greek, has lived in four different parks during his lifetime.
Keto is known for bullying and even sexually harassing Morgan, Visser said, according to an article by the Inquisitr.
Morgan, who was captured from the wild in 2010, is originally from a pod in the Netherlands.
Jeffrey Ventre, a former SeaWorld trainer-turned anti-orca-captivity activist, and star of the anti-Seaworld film Blackfish, considers Morgan’s actions typical “escape behavior.”
“It looks like she jumped up on that stage area to get away from the other whales. I think that that was a way for her to prevent from getting beat up further.”
The Dolphin Project, which published the first video, called the behavior “unsettling.”
“While we cannot explain the reason for her behaviour, the juxtaposition of a previously-wild orca against the stark backdrop of the park’s performance area is unsettling to say the least.”
Lolo Parque insists that beaching is natural behavior and whales do it in the wild. According to the company’s website, Morgan is not a good candidate for release into the wild because she is deaf.
“A group of independent experts in cetacean hearing were measuring Morgan’s hearing capacity, using Auditory Evoked Potential (AEP). They came to the conclusion that Morgan has an important hearing deficit.”
Ric O’Barry, the founder of The Dolphin Project and star of the documentary film, The Cove, released a statement on Thursday arguing the judgment on Morgan’s captivity.
“The decision to deny Morgan a chance to return to the sea was politically motivated. The decision makers cannot provide any empirical scientific data to substantiate their claim that Morgan is not a candidate for release.”
“One can only guess as to how Morgan became the private property of SeaWorld. Morgan is now listed on SeaWorld’s website as one of its assets – an asset worth millions of dollars. A pretty sweet gift to a corporation that has a very high mortality rate and a long standing record of abusing orcas and other marine mammals.
“Let’s assume, hypothetically, that Morgan cannot be reunited with her family. Does that mean she has to spend the rest of her life in a concrete tank at an amusement park in Tenerife? Of course not. If SeaWorld had a heart, they would transfer her to a sea sanctuary. They have the money to create such a place. They owe it to Morgan and the other orcas whose lives they have ruined.”
SeaWorld may not have to fund the sea sanctuary. The initial efforts to build a haven for retired whales have been funded by Munchkin, a baby product company. Scientists have formed the Whale Sanctuary Project and, according to the Inquisitr, are currently scouting for locations.