Dutch government again urged to act to free Morgan the orca

August 25, 2016

Morgan in her Spanish tank. Photo: www.freemorgan.org

A group campaigning to have a ‘Dutch’ orca released from an amusement park on Tenerife have applied to have the key document which allowed her to be sent to Spain annulled, arguing that the terms of her transfer have been breached.

The orca Morgan was found in a severely weakened state in the Wadden Sea in 2010 and sent to the Dolphinarium in Harderwijk to recover.

The then-junior economic affairs minister Henk Bleker, who was responsible for Morgan, decided she could not be returned to the wild and she was sent to the Loro Parque in Spain instead. The financial terms of the move have never been revealed

The original European certificate approving the transfer stated that Morgan would be used for research purposes.

However, the orca now performs tricks for the public and there are severe concerns about her health, the Free Morgan Foundation says. For example, the condition of her teeth has deteriorated enormously compared to the time of her capture.

Earlier this year she was filmed deliberately beaching herself and bashing herself against the edge of a holding tank. In addition, the foundation is concerned efforts are being made to breed Morgan, which would also be in breach of the certificate.

They have now instructed Amsterdam law firm Van Den Biesen Kloostra Advocaten to apply to have the export licence annulled.

Source: www.dutchnews.nl

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Lolita’s Tank Is Substandard, Marine Mammal Commission Rules

August 22, 2016

Lolita the orca has lived in this tank for more than 45 years.

For decades, animal rights activists have claimed that Lolita, the orca at the Miami Seaquarium, is living in substandard conditions at the marine mammal park. They contend her tank is legally too small for an animal of her size due to a concrete work island at the center that limits her range of movement.

However, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the government agency in charge of enforcing laws protecting animals, has responded for years that her tank does meet space requirements because, according to their understanding of the Animal Welfare Act, measurements for space don’t have to be unobstructed.

In March, though, Lyndsay Cole, the assistant director of legislative and public affairs for APHIS, told New Times after triple-checking with experts that space requirements, specifically for Minimum Horizontal Dimension (MHD), are actually strictly measured without obstructions.

“The MHD is calculated for only those areas of the pool that are unobstructed and meet the depth requirements,” she said.

Soon after Cole made her statement, APHIS officials seemed to change their story. Another agency representative named Tanya Espinosa, a public affairs specialist, told New Times that obstructions, like the concrete work island in Lolita’s tank, were permitted as long as they were not “detrimental.”

When asked, Ms. Espinosa did not cite specific regulations which allow for obstructions in dolphins’ tanks. She also did not state who determines when an obstruction becomes “detrimental.”

Espinosa declined New Times requests to interview an APHIS inspector to learn how space requirements are routinely measured. Five months later, though, it seems Cole’s initial statement was correct.

The Marine Mammal Commission (MMC), a government body that works with Congress to protect animals, has backed Cole’s words by recently stating clearly that when it comes to tanks carrying orcas and other dolphins, measurements for minimum space requirements are to be unobstructed; otherwise, the agency says, the regulations are “rendered meaningless.”

“… The existing regulations specifies that enclosures must be constructed and maintained so that the animals contained within are provided sufficient space, both horizontally and vertically, to be able to make normal postural and social adjustments with adequate freedom of movement, in or out of the water,” wrote Rebecca J. Lent, the executive director of the commission. “All minimum space requirements should be met in an unobstructed manner, otherwise the definition of ‘minimum’ would be rendered meaningless.”

Lent also said that APHIS should “clarify” to the public that “all minimum space requirements for all species/groups under section 3.104 of the regulations (which Lolita is a part of) are to be calculated and based on unobstructed horizontal distances and depths.”

Animal advocate Russ Rector, the Fort Lauderdale man who once led a devastating campaign against Ocean World in the ’90s, has filed a new complaint urging APHIS to remeasure Lolita’s tank in light of the MMC’s statement regarding measurements.

“In light of the May 4, 2016, Marine Mammal Commission’s letter to APHIS saying that minimum space requirements are to be measured without obstructions, I ask that APHIS have an investigator please use that complicated instrument called a tape measure and measure the whale Stadium’s tank as it should be measured,” Rector quips in his complaint. “Does this tank meet MHD regulations for an Orca?”

This complaint may pose a dilemma for Seaquarium. If an investigator finds Lolita’s enclosure does not meet unobstructed space requirements, then the nearly 50-year-old orca can no longer legally  be permanently housed in the present stadium whale tank.

It is a fishbowl-shaped space that a federal court judge says offers “less than ideal conditions” for an orca to live.

New Times has reached out to APHIS and the Miami Seaquarium. This article will be updated when we get a response.

UPDATE: In response to the Marine Mammal Commission’s statement that measurements be calculated without obstructions, Tanya Espinosa, the public affairs specialist at APHIS, told New Times that she is standing by her statement that the Animal Welfare Act allows for obstructions.

“The Marine Mammal Commission is not the agency responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act. I stand by my earlier statements regarding the island in the enclosure. The Marine Mammal Commission’s mission and authorities are very different from APHIS. We have worked closely with the Commission for over 20 years. They have submitted comments on Docket #APHIS-2006-0085, the proposed rule, and we will review and consider them, as we do all submitted comments. Our official response to all comments will be in any final rule that is published in the Federal Register.”

Though the Marine Mammal Commission does not have enforcement power, as a government body that works with Congress it does have the authority to interpret the regulations that APHIS officials enforce.

In response to this New Times piece, Dr. Lent, the executive director of the commission, remarked that she hopes APHIS officials clarify to the public that “all minimum space requirements” are calculated based on “unobstructed” measurements.

According to federal courts, “The Marine Mammal Commission is ‘a federal entity possessing expertise on issues relating to the protection of marine mammals.'”

Source: www.browardpalmbeach.com

Root Canal: SeaWorld Gets Drilled In New Killer Whale Teeth Report

August 17, 2016

SeaWorld’s CEO Joel Manby has been all smiles since he and Wayne Pacelle, CEO of The Humane Society of the United States announced that their organizations had reached an agreement to end the captive breeding of killer whales at SeaWorld’s parks in California, Texas and Florida along with the six killer whales under SeaWorld’s care at Loro Parque in Spain. But when it comes to the killer whales themselves, they’re not smiling because there is something missing – their teeth.

Dentition as a Welfare Indicator

Do you  remember going to the dentist as a child for a checkup? Do you remember how happy you were if you didn’t have any cavities? Do you remember the sound of the dentist’s drill when you did?

A new report from the Free Morgan Foundation (FMF) examines the condition of killer whale teeth as a measure of their welfare in captivity. The report, Ongoing concerns regarding the SeaWorld orca held at Loro Parque, Tenerife, Spain provides extensive photographic documentation that chronicles the dentition of the six killer whales in SeaWorld’s care at Loro Parque. Based on the report, it appears that cavities are the least of their problems.

The authors of the report, Dr. Ingrid Visser and Rosina Lisker, visited Loro Parque in April of this year where they observed and photographed the killer whales over a period of three days. During their visit, Visser & Lisker received personal assurances by Dr. Javier Almunia of the Loro Parque Fundación and two Loro Parque veterinarians, that there were no health problems with the killer whales.

When specifically asked about the wild-born female Morgan, the authors were told she had no broken teeth:

All three employees denied that Morgan had any broken teeth. Subsequent to the authors’ visit, on 28 April 2016, Loro Parque posted on their official website blog the following text; “Dr. Visser asked about Morgan’s broken teeth, and the veterinarian staff confirmed that Morgan does not have broken teeth just abrasion in [sic] some of them.” [emphasis added].” (Visser & Lisker at p. 16.) 

The photographic evidence collected by Visser & Lisker, however, adds to the growing stack of documentation regarding welfare issues facing the killer whales held in that facility.

Morgan is of particular concern to Visser & Lisker because during her time in captivity beginning at Dolfinarium Harderwijk in 23 June 2010 and then at Loro Parque since 29 November 2011, she has suffered significant, progressive dental distress that would not have occurred had she been returned back to the ocean following her rehabilitation:

According to the authors, in 3 years, 10 months, 10 days, Morgan went from 0% severe damage of her right mandibular teeth to 75%. The report goes on to calculate that between 41.66% and 75% of the mandibular (lower jaw) teeth were moderately or severely damaged among the six killer whales observed at Loro Parque.

Drilling and Flushing – Superior Dental Care?

Drilling and daily flushing of killer whale teeth is portrayed as ‘superior dental care’ by Seaworld. But is it really? I asked former SeaWorld trainer John Jett Ph.D. to describe the daily dental care of killer whales from a trainer’s perspective:

We used a variable-speed drill, with a stainless drill bit that was disinfected with betadine prior to the drilling procedure. It was a Dremel brand drill like you can buy at a hardware store. The holes were flushed using a Waterpik filled with betadine. We would receive cases of 1,000mL bags of betadine from the animal care department, which we would cut with scissors and pour into the Waterpik basin in preparation for tooth flushes.” (John Jett Ph.D. July 2016)

Another former SeaWorld trainer, Jeffrey Ventre MD, gives further detail about pulpotomies, tooth flushing and the health impacts of dentition of killer whales in captivity in this video:

Five Freedoms

The welfare issues at Loro Parque extend far beyond the killer whales teeth. Visser & Lisker also asses the welfare of the killer whales through an analysis and discussion of the physical conditions at Loro Parque with respect to the ‘Five Freedoms’ of animal welfare:

  • FREEDOM FROM HUNGER AND THIRST.
  • FREEDOM FROM DISCOMFORT.
  • FREEDOM FROM PAIN, INJURY OR DISEASE.
  • FREEDOM TO EXPRESS NORMAL BEHAVIOR.
  • FREEDOM FROM FEAR AND DISTRESS.

These standards are internationally recognized as providing the absolute minimal requirement for an animal’s physical and mental well-being.

In the report, Visser & Lisker document violations of four of the ‘five freedoms’ of the killer whale’s welfare at Loro Parque. Their report also meticulously documents 23 violations of animal welfare standards affecting the killer whales at Loro Parque using the C-Well® welfare standards. (Visser & Lisker at p. 33.)

SeaWorld and the Humane Society

Wayne Pacelle is the CEO of HSUS, a position he has held since 2004.
Six years after he began working in that position, in November 2010, his organization wrote a letter to the US Government highlighting the animal welfare violations at Loro Parque. HSUS requested that the US Government act according to the letter of comity provision (the legal principle that nations will mutually recognize and respect each other’s laws) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). They requested to have the SeaWorld killer whales seized and repatriated back to the United States:

Therefore, it is imperative that NMFS and APHIS undertake an immediate investigation and make an official finding as to Loro Parque’s non-compliance so that NMFS can take action to seize the orcas or work with SeaWorld to arrange for their repatriation to the United States.” (HSUS letter 11 November 2010.)

The revelations in the Visser & Lisker (2016) report are stark and startling and reaffirm the validity of the HSUS welfare concerns raised in November 2010 about SeaWorld’s killer whales at Loro Parque.

This new report by the FMF has also been submitted to representatives of the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Office of Protected Resources
as a not so subtle reminder that it cannot wash its hands of responsibility for monitoring the conditions of the killer whales at Loro Parque through feigned ignorance and denial of readily verifiable facts and observable conditions.

The fact that SeaWorld keeps six of its claimed twenty-nine killer whales at an off-shore facility is a detail that is often overlooked, yet these individuals represent approximately 20 percent of SeaWorld’s entire killer whale collection.

Although Loro Parque is not owned by SeaWorld, the killer whales held there are ultimately under the care and responsibility of SeaWorld. Furthermore, as a consequence of the original transfer of four SeaWorld killer whales to Loro Parque in 2006, there is also a responsibility of the US Government pursuant to the MMPA to pay attention to the welfare conditions of the killer whales held at Loro Parque today. (See the FMF white paper on whale laundering.)

On 17 March 2016, SeaWorld and HSUS made an announcement – in partnership – that shook the very foundation of the marine theme park industry, setting in motion the beginning of a gradual phasing out of the commercial display of killer whales in captivity. But is that enough?

The HSUS policy position regarding SeaWorld’s killer whales at Loro Parque as expressed to the US Government in 2010 was powerful, principled and represented the humane mandate for the welfare of the killer whales, and of all animals, that the HSUS represents. It is a position that SeaWorld needs to fully embrace.

SeaWorld has a moral and legal obligation to these animals and must act to secure their welfare. “ (HSUS letter 11 November 2010.)

Whether the HSUS partnership with SeaWorld will result in a softening of HSUS’s stance on the deplorable welfare conditions that continue to plague the killer whales at Loro Parque is uncertain. No doubt, it is an important question that will have to be answered by HSUS – preferably with actions rather than words.

To that end, the FMF sent an “open letter” to Mr. Manby and Mr. Pacelle asking them to meet with the FMF regarding the situation at Loro Parque and to discuss a long term commitment to work together to return Morgan to the ocean in a controlled, natural environment. To date, neither Mr. Manby or Mr. Pacelle have responded to the FMF invitation to talk.

Morgan as Her Own Best Advocate

Ever since being taken from the wild in 2010, Morgan has commanded the public’s interest in an international spotlight. Over the course of the last several months, Morgan’s plight has increased public awareness and outrage over the welfare issues facing her and other killer whales in captivity.

Two recent viral videos show Morgan ramming her head into a heavy metal segregation gate while being confined in a small medical tank and also show her “hauling-out” onto the main performance stage for an extended period after a performance. This was apparently in an attempt to escape the aggression of SeaWorld’s other killer whales who are also held with Morgan at Loro Parque.

The stories of these two events spread across social media and received mainstream coverage, including National Geographic, Time, People, The Dodo, HuffPost UK, and in this exclusive television interview with former SeaWorld trainer Dr Jeffrey Ventre on Sky News with Kay Burley.

For their part, SeaWorld and Loro Parque have gone to great efforts to try to spin the story about Morgan, claiming that she is healthy and doing well in captivity and that the recent videos show normal behavior. However, in fact, they are quite alarming and such a response underscores the paradox of perception by those who want to continue to profit from the captivity of these sentient beings and those who wish to put an end to it.

The Visser & Lisker report draws attention to the clear and obvious issues of Morgan’s teeth and explains why the damage is due to confinement in a concrete tank. This report and Morgan’s plight continues to gain international attention with new in-depth articles about Morgan appearing in the Dutch news magazine Vrij Nederland and German newspaper Donaukurier in August.

Pain Relief?

The images of the killer whales teeth in the report speak for themselves.
They are graphic, indisputable and universally recognizable as “painful” to any person who has had a cavity, chipped, broken or lost a tooth, or had a tooth drilled by a dentist.

These latest revelations about SeaWorld’s killer whales has the potential to take yet another bite out of the bottom line of the struggling marine theme park industry as it continues to struggle with a public relations campaign, trying desperately to distance itself from the Blackfish effect.

On 4 August 2016, SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS) reported its financial results for the first half and second quarter of 2016. The results were not encouraging for investors. One analyst even suggested that SeaWorld should reinvest in the business, pinning its hopes on the addition of new roller coasters – not killer whales.

The world is rapidly changing and national and international laws and regulations and the government entities that are entrusted to enforce them, need to catch up to society’s expectations and demands. What happens next is anyone’s guess. But one thing is for sure, the Visser & Lisker report gives both government regulators and marine theme park executives something to chew on.

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com

SEAWORLD ORCA MORGAN IS DEAF, LEAPING OUT OF TANK TO ESCAPE BULLYING

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.

Source: Inquisitr.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Development of a new communication system for a deaf orca Morgan based on gestures and light

June 2, 2016

Statement issued by the company (Announcement)

“The trainers of Morgan, an orca with a serious hearing damage that was rescued in 2010 on the coast of the Netherlands and that was transferred to Loro Parque in 2011, have developed a communication system, based on gestures and lights, as part of a rewarding program.

A trainer and supervisor of the orcas in the zoological park, Rafael Sánchez, explained in an interview with the Agency EFE how, shortly upon the arrival of the orca that was transferred at a request of the Dutch Supreme Court, the trainers realized that Morgan did not react on the audio signals of the whistles from the trainers.

Up until now, the scientists have conducted several hearing tests that have proved that Morgan suffers a severe loss damage or is possibly completely deaf. Now, this fact has been confirmed by a group of U.S. researchers who, under the leadership of an Australian scientist from the University of Curtin, have published their scientific study in the prestigious journal Aquatic Mammals.

To enable interaction with the orca, the trainers have installed the white light bulbs in the interior and exterior part of the pool, and when the light comes on, it indicates to Morgan that she did her task well, explained Rafael Sánchez.

The other five orcas now understand this new communication system created for Morgan, too, and, quite recently, all of them have undergone the hearing tests.

To perform these tests, a method was used that measures brain waves that are created as part of a response to an audio signal. This system is commonly used for cetaceans, highlighted Dr. Javier Almunia, Deputy Director of Loro Parque Fundación and fellow researcher in this study.

The hearing tests showed that Morgan is the only orca in the group that did not show any brain reaction, continued Javier Almunia, who, at the same time, cannot fully ascertain that Morgan is completely deaf. This is because a thick layer of fat that orcas have, may impede the precise reading of the brain waves via the electrodes applied to an orca’s head.

This hearing test is identical to the method used to test the hearing abilities of humans, which is based on measuring brain waves as a reaction to sounds, commented Dr. Javier Almunia.

The Deputy Director of Loro Parque Fundación guarantees that the the results of the audiogram of Morgan have been known for a while and that the work has been conducted for some time to ensure the development of a communication system for Morgan, for her to be able to integrate with the group. The most important part right now is to continue to review this study and obtain confirmations of these results by the independent scientists.

Morgan, who is estimated to be between eight to ten years old, weighs currently more than 2.200 kilograms, measures around 5 metres and consumes more than 40 kilograms fish per day. This amount of food is proportionally divided in nine meals during which the trainers take as an opportunity for conducting voluntary health checks and obtaining samples of blood, urine and even faeces by introducing a flexible tube through the rectum; health controls for which the orcas have been trained for.

The Deputy Director of Loro Parque Fundación recalled that Morgan was rescued on the 23rd of June in 2010 on the coast of Wadden Sea, on the Dutch island Schiermonnikoog, and was encountered in a “very poor condition with symptoms of dehydration and seriously malnourished”. The orca only weighed 450 kilograms and did not show signs of resistance against her rescue. People who were involved in this rescue mission commented afterwards that they were not certain that the animal would survives as long as the first night upon the rescue, so critical was her condition.

The orca was taken to the Dolfinarium in Harderwijk where she was recovering for one year until she was moved to Loro Parque (Tenerife) in 2011 following the decision of the Dutch juridical authorities.”

Source: latino.foxnews.com

Morgan, witness report, again

VIDEO: Morgan Shows What’s Wrong With CaptivityM

May 26, 2016

A recent video from the anonymous “Morgan Monitors” at Loro Parque in Tenerife, Spain, shows Morgan fully out of the water, and on the concrete slide-out. Morgan Monitors reports that after the final show of the day had ended, Morgan suddenly slid onto the slide-out, remaining there for a witnessed 10 minutes – and maybe longer.

While we cannot explain the reason for her behavior, the juxtaposition of a previously-wild orca against the stark backdrop of the park’s performance area is unsettling, to say the least.

Some people took selfies with Morgan in the background. Sadly, Morgan was still out of the water by the time the videographers had to leave.

Source: Dolphinproject.com

 

 

 

 

Plans for a whale sanctuary ride a wave of support, but face a storm of controversy

May 5, 2016 at 5:33 pm

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An effort to create the world’s first sanctuary set aside for rehabilitating whales and dolphins is moving ahead, but now the hard part begins.

Today marked the official launch of the Whale Sanctuary Project, a non-profit organization that aims to identify and build a refuge for whales, porpoises and dolphins that have been retired from entertainment facilities or rescued from injury or sickness in the wild.

Munchkin Inc., a baby-product company headquartered in California, put up an initial $200,000 contribution to begin looking at potential sites for a seaside sanctuary and draw up a strategic plan for the operation’s early phase. Another $1 million was pledged to complete the sanctuary once the site is selected.

“Munchkin has long favored a natural coastal ocean sanctuary as an alternative solution to maintaining orcas in captivity, so we are eager to support The Whale Sanctuary Project’s efforts on behalf of cetaceans retired from the entertainment industry,” Munchkin founder and CEO Steven Dunn said in a statement. “We are dedicated not only to these majestic mammals, but also to helping parents and children understand what they can do to help orcas and others live the rest of their lives happily and safely.”

A decision on the site could be made within six to nine months, according to the project’s outreach coordinator, Michael Mountain. Coastal areas of Washington state and British Columbia are among the locales under consideration, along with Maine and Nova Scotia on the East Coast. Once a site is selected, Mountain said it could take another 18 months or more to prepare the sanctuary for its first resident, depending on funding.

Marine mammals regularly pass through protected waters such as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, but the Whale Sanctuary Project would create dedicated spaces, using nets or “sea pens,” to contain cetaceans that can’t survive in the wild. For more than 20 years, the Washington-based Orca Network has proposed creating such a sanctuary at Eastsound on Orcas Island in the San Juans.

The best-known case of cetacean rehabilitation relates to Keiko, the “Free Willy” orca (a.k.a. killer whale) that was released in the late 1990s and ended up being returned to his home waters off Iceland. He never fully integrated with wild whales, and died of pneumonia in 2003.

Since then, orcas at SeaWorld San Diego have been implicated in three human deaths, adding to the controversy over marine mammals in captivity. Documentaries such as “Blackfish” and “The Cove” energized the opposition. In March, SeaWorld said it would stop breeding orcas and eventually phase out their use in performances.

For now, SeaWorld plans to keep the orcas it has at its facilities. However, the organizers of the Whale Sanctuary Project hope that the animals will eventually find refuge with them.

“There are sanctuaries for other large, highly social and wide-ranging mammals, including elephants and great apes, but there are none anywhere in the world yet for dolphins and whales,” the project’s leader, neuroscientist Lori Marino, said in today’s announcement. “Cetacean sanctuary initiatives are long overdue, and we now have the best possible team of experts to ensure an optimal quality of life and care for individual cetaceans.”

Marino is the executive director of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy. During her time as a researcher at Emory University, she published a series of studies suggesting that dolphins and orcas have significant cognitive capacity.

The Munchkin money should provide a boost to the Whale Sanctuary Project, but in a report published today by the journal Science, some experts questioned how successful the project will be. Shawn Noren, a physiologist and orca researcher at the University of California at Santa Cruz, was quoted as saying that “mind-boggling” challenges lie ahead.

By some accounts, the cost of creating the sanctuary could eventually amount to tens of millions of dollars, or even hundreds of millions.

“I’d rather see that money spent protecting marine areas and conducting basic science,” Richard Connor, an animal behaviorist at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, was quoted as saying.

Source: GeekWire.com

Marine Park Under Fire After Video Shows Captive Orca Banging Its Head Against A Gate

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.”

Source: InsiderEdition.com

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

 

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.