A SeaWorld-owned orca has been garnering worldwide attention after beaching herself on a concrete slab for more than 10 minutes following a performance.
The orca, named Morgan, had been captured from the wild in the Netherlands in 2010 and never fit in with the captive group. Reportedly bullied by other orcas, it appears that she will jump out of the water to escape from harassment from the other whales.
When she lay on the concrete, spectators captured her on video, and some debated that the orca may be attempting suicide.
If whales lie on the ground too long, the weight of their bodies can crush their internal organs and muscles.
After Morgan was taken from the wild in 2010, she was transferred to captivity at a Dutch theme park. She was initially supposed to be released back to the wild after only six months, but that plan changed. In 2011, she was moved to Loro Parque in Spain, a theme park whose cetaceans are owned by SeaWorld.
— Orca S※O※S (@OrcaSOS) June 7, 2016
Dr Ingrid Visser, who studies killer whales in the wild and captivity, said Morgan’s behavior was “fundamentally wrong”.
Loro Parque said the beaching is not unusual for orca behavior, according to Stuff.
“It is absolutely clear, that this declaration represents nothing more than a campaign launched by the anti-zoo activists that do not really pursue the well-being of the animals.
“A voluntary stranding is a natural behaviour of orcas living in the wild.”
Former Seaworld Trainer Dr Jeffrey Venture says the Orca that beached itself was engaging in “escape behavior” https://t.co/4ojNEiXQtL
— Sky News (@SkyNews) June 6, 2016
Dr. Jeffrey Venture, former trainer at SeaWorld, said that by jumping out of the pool, Morgan was exhibiting “escape behavior.”
Visser argued with the park’s statement about beaching.
“Despite Loro Parque’s comment that this is ‘totally natural behaviour’ they are judging that based only on the compromised situation with keeping orca in tanks.
“Nowhere in the world do any wild orca slide out onto concrete platforms.”
Morgan captured international attention recently when she repeatedly slammed her head against a metal gate during confinement in a small pool.
Visser said that Morgan’s situation has continued to worsen since she was taken from the wild as a young whale, estimated between two and three years old. Life in the tank has been tough for Morgan.
“She is kept with the most dysfunctional group of orca in the world.”
The 2013 documentary Blackfish told the story about how Morgan’s tank-mate, Keto, killed his trainer, Alexis Martinez, in 2009.
Keto is not good company, according to Visser, as he now continuously bullies and sexually harasses Morgan.
Concerned activists started the Free Morgan Foundation and created a four-minute film, I am Morgan ~ Stolen Freedom. The movie recently won the Audience Choice Award, category “Inspirational” film, at the Top Shorts Online Film Festival 2016.
Visser said that now is the perfect time to reintroduce Morgan to her native pod, through use of a sea sanctuary. Animal advocates are currently scouting for locations in order to offer relief to captive orcas and dolphins.
SeaWorld’s stocks have been on a drastic downward trend, despite their 2016 announcement that they were ending whale entertainment shows and plan to stop breeding orcas.
SeaWorld Says ‘No’ To Sanctuary For Tilikum, But Scientists Are Building One Anyway https://t.co/Ho0oDVWBOk
— Nancy J. Bailey (@cliffysmom) May 11, 2016
The park’s decline has been due primarily from backlash following the documentary film, Blackfish. The movie highlights the life of the whale Tilikum, including the three people he has killed, and describes how life in captivity is torture for the free-roaming species.
Attendance to the park has declined following massive protest over the captivity of whales.
Animal activists are calling out SeaWorld to release Morgan, offering up World Oceans Day as the prime opportunity to make the announcement.
United Nations Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission celebrates World Oceans Day annually on June 8.
— Stuff.co.nz News (@NZStuff) June 8, 2016
A petition to release Morgan has accumulated nearly 70,000 signatures. It states that the orca’s DNA and vocalizations have been matched to a wild pod in the Netherlands where she was captured, presumably her family.
Other ways to help Morgan are listed on FreeMorgan.org.
[Image via Dmitry Eagle Orlov/Shutterstock]