Law Experts Publish on Morgan’s Legal Status

Three law experts; Arie Trouwborst, Richard Caddell and Ed Couzens, have recently had their peer-reviewed article published titled: To Free or Not to Free? State Obligations and the Rescue and Release of Marine Mammals: A Case Study of Morgan the Orca.

The Cambridge Journal Transnational Environmental Law , which has published the article, has kindly provided it free of charge to interested parties.  Documents such as these are normally sold to each individual who wishes to download it, so we are grateful to the Editors for helping Morgan in this way and allowing the greater public to be informed.

State Obligations and the Rescue and Release of Marine Mammals: A Case Study of ‘Morgan the Orca’

You can download the paper directly from their website.

The Abstract (summary) is reproduced here.  Of particular note is the final sentence, part of which we have bolded. Note that the emphasis is ours.

Wild animals periodically encounter difficulties or suffer injuries that require human intervention and assistance. The natural assumption is that a surviving animal will, where viable, be released back to the wild. But is there a formal legal obligation for a rescuer to do so? This question arose recently in the context of Morgan, a female killer whale rescued in poor health in Dutch waters. Morgan was successfully restored to full health, but the Dutch authorities subsequently declined to repatriate her to the wild and, controversially, transferred her to a zoological facility in Spain. This article examines the largely unexplored legal obligations incumbent upon the Netherlands in respect of rehabilitated cetaceans, in the process exposing certain problems of clarity and consistency within the present regulatory framework. By necessary implication, this article identifies emerging issues of interpretation posed by the Morgan saga, illustrating the tensions between animal welfare and nature conservation especially in the transboundary context and concluding firmly that the Dutch authorities erred legally in making their final decision.

We would like to also extend our thanks to the authors for providing insight into Morgan’s case. Their findings may well take the Free Morgan Foundation one step closer to achieving the goal of giving Morgan her chance at rehabilitation and release.

Morgan fights for freedom – Appeal Process Started

With financial assistance from Sam Simon, an American director, producer, writer, cartoonist, and philanthropist, Morgan will now have a chance to appeal the decision denying her the right to return to the ocean.  Morgan was captured in the waters off the Netherlands, under a ‘rehabilitation and release’ permit.

Mr Simon comments “Quite simply, Morgan, an intelligent, highly social animal that used to swim 100 kilometres a day in the wild, has been illegally abducted by the captivity industry and  is now forced to perform idiotic tricks in a bathtub.  She must be returned to her family. This is probably her last chance.”

The Free Morgan Foundation, formed to help return this orca to the wild, states the capture permit was violated and has begun the legal process to appeal the decision to keep her in captivity. Morgan currently performs in front of paying visitors, at the German owned entertainment park Loro Parque, in Spain. The park has close ties with USA SeaWorld, who want to use Morgan for their breeding program. SeaWorld now apparently include Morgan as one of their own animals in their recent prospectus for the upcoming IPO of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.

Dr Ingrid Visser, an orca scientist who has been an expert witness at the previous hearings and who is the Chairperson of the Free Morgan Foundation states; “I’ve personally seen Morgan being attacked many times by the other orca at Loro Parque. I have photographs of aggression and bite marks.  Morgan chews on the concrete walls of her tank due to stress and boredom.  She’s lost the top third of some of her teeth in just 19 weeks and is clearly suffering.  Yet the park denies any issues.

Sam Simon has provided financial support for Morgan’s appeal. He believes, like the Free Morgan Foundation, that Morgan should be given a chance at rehabilitation and release.

Simon recently donated funding for the anti-whaling organisation Sea Shepherd to enable them to purchase a new vessel in order to fight the poaching of whales in Antarctica by the Japanese.

He has previously funded a facility dedicated to rescuing and retraining stray dogs for adoption and as ‘service’ dogs for people in need.

Now his philanthropic support will give Morgan another chance to return to the ocean.

Morgan chews on the concrete tank walls as a result of stress and boredom. In just weeks she has worn off the tops of some of her teeth.  This was documented and presented as evidence in the 1st of November hearing, in the Netherlands. Credit: Dr Ingrid N. Visser /

Fight for Morgan’s Freedom Will Continue

The Free Morgan Foundation was saddened to hear the verdict from the Judges of the Amsterdam Court today. Despite the fact that Morgan’s right to freedom was clearly outlined by many orca scientists from around the world, the captivity industries duplicitous manner has resulted in this step backwards for Morgan and humanity. Our Expert Board comments on the verdict as the next steps to appeal her freedom will begin today. Morgan has suffered severely at Loro Parque and we will not let this go unnoticed.

“Morgan has become a pawn in a game, where corporate marine park owners remove wild orcas from the ocean, only to be put into servitude as a performer for their monetary gain, and to be used as a breeding machine who will add genetic diversity to help them continue making millions off orcas held in tiny tanks. Morgan should never have been moved to Loro Parque, where she is being abused by the other orcas, giving her no chance of living a natural life in the ocean.”

– Susan Berta, Co-Founder, Orca Network

“The sad part of this is not only that Morgan will not be free … is that we can see how bad humans can be, how ignorant we can be and selfish…. I hope one day people will realize that we all have right to live free in this world…. using orca for entertainment knowing how bad is this for them is the best example of how bad we can be…. I only hope that one day we will not have to be talking about this anymore.”

– Juan Manuel Copello, Principal Researcher, Punta Norte Orca Research Project

“It is so disappointing that after all the scientific evidence put forward to demonstrate that Morgans re-release has every chance of being successful, that this animal has been sentenced to a life of captivity. I do not feel that this decision is in the best interest of the animal, nor that animal welfare considerations have been taken into account, thus I would have to question the motivation behind such a decision.”

– Dr Verné Dove, Cetacean Field Veterinarian, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

“Words cannot express my disappointment at the verdict. It baffles me that as humans we would condemn Morgan to an existence in a tank for the apparent entertainment and monetary value she provides.”

– Sarah Dwyer, Cetacean Researcher, New Zealand

“We are very disappointed in the Dutch courts decision in not allowing Morgan another chance at freedom. It was apparent with the information that was given during testimony in November that Morgan will not live a long and healthy life in her current situation”

– Jeff Foster

“Very sorry to hear that Morgan won’t be allowed to feel her home waters again and will not be able to get away from the stressful, dangerous and dysfunctional captives she’s crammed in with at Loro Parque.”

– Howard Garrett, Co-Founder, Orca Network

“It is extremely unfortunate that after all the strong evidence we presented, and the very weak hearsay the captivity industry presented, that the court still ruled in their favor. This means there is still a lot public education required to really expose how these animals are treated in captivity.”

– Terry Hardie, Co-Founder, Free Morgan Foundation

“Once again greed and ignorance were allowed to succeed. The Dutch authorities failed to correct their initial mistake and declined a wild animal’s right for freedom. Condemning yet another orca to be a slave to human entertainment, sacrificed for human profit. It is a sad day for Morgan, for the Netherlands and for all cetacean lovers across the globe.”

– Stefan Jacobs

“A heart-breaking outcome. Morgan has been condemned to live a short, impoverished life amongst the most dysfunctional group of captive orcas in the world today. All for profit and all for entertainment. A sad day indeed!”

– Rob Lott, Policy Manager, Whale and Dolphin Conservation

““When we return wild animals to nature, we merely return them to what is already theirs. For man cannot give wild animals freedom, they can only take it away.” (Jacques Cousteau) Today is a very sad day for Morgan and other cetaceans in captivity. Despite all the compelling evidence presented, human greed has prevailed once more!”

– Emmanuelle Martinez, Senior Research Scientist, Pacific Whale Foundation Australia

“I’m very saddened to see that the judges did not rectify an enormously wrong decision and I’m in dismay to see that the FMF claims regarding the unlawfulness of the rescuing, keeping captive transfer and prolonged captivity of Morgan have not been granted, regardless of the huge amount of evidence proving that our position is not only scientifically valid but ethically the only way to go. From the beginning on, this case showed the careless and un-thoughtful behaviors of both Ministry and keepers in forcing a wild animal to captivity for the sake of private interests and corporate benefits. Hiding behind “common practice” and “accepted solution” (when referring to orcas captivity) is just a feeble attempt to dodge responsibilities and avoid spending money and time in a proper rehab and release project, as the one suggested in the FMF plan. Unfortunately this behavior and allowing to export Morgan in another country make Morgan’s freedom more and more difficult and force us to start all over again the battle in Spanish court. We still need the people’s support cos the fight for Morgan’s freedom is far from over. A direct appeal to Spanish authorities, CITES, European Court, Parliament and Commissions: stop covering up Loro Parque, stop applying the policy of silence and consensus and just do the right thing: listen to the thousands of voices that scream “Free Morgan”.”

– Lara Pozzato, Co-Founder, Free Morgan Foundation

“What a truly sad day for Morgan. With this verdict we are sure to see her continue to suffer unnecessarily, purely for profit. It makes me sick to think of the short and miserable life she is destined to live in captivity.”

– Carol Ray, Former Orca Trainer

“Morgan’s loss is humanity’s loss, a lesson about our species’ ignorance. She does not deserve to suffer and die in a tank for the profit and pleasure of ignorant people, especially as knowledgeable people are willing and able to give her back her freedom.”

– William Rossiter, President, Cetacean Society International

“It is very disappointing to hear of the courts decision today, for the courts to reject so many eminently qualified opinions in favor of Morgan’s freedom is a travesty of justice.”

– Troy Saville

“This is a very sad day for Morgan, who deserved only a chance to regain a life in the ocean, which she richly deserves. The outcome shows clearly that the business interests of the captive industry outweighed scientific evidence, common sense and humanity. Poor Morgan. Justice also lost today.”

– Paul Spong & Helena Symonds, OrcaLab

“It is sad that Morgan’s stressful circumstances are not recognized and that she is not given the chance for rehabilitation and release in her natural habitat, especially given all newly available data on her native population.”

– Dr. Astrid van Ginneken, Co-Principal Researcher and Consultant, Center for Whale Research

“This is a travesty. It is an outrageous injustice that has been served on Morgan. But this decision only serves as fuel for an engine driving people to stop entertainment parks that abuse animals in order to make money. I will not allow Morgan’s fate to be sealed by this decision. I will seek retribution through the Spanish Court and go after Loro Parque for their cruelty to Morgan. Her behaviour clearly shows that she is unhappy and stressed and this is due to the other orca attacking and harassing her. Morgan will not become invisible because of this decision, rather she will become the poster-child of all that is wrong within the captivity industry.”

– Dr. Ingrid Visser, Orca Researcher and Co-founder, Free Morgan Foundation

“We still, sadly, vastly underestimate the intelligence of animals and their ability to suffer in confinement. We have no right to take away this wild animal’s freedom for the mere purpose of human entertainment.”

– Francoise Wemelsfelder

Morgan’s Plight Continues

I’ve just been to visit Morgan and was saddened to see that her life hasn’t improved. Despite us alerting Loro Parque to the issues that we had noted and presented in our evidence to Court on the 1st of November 2012, nothing appears to have changed for Morgan.

I observed her chewing on concrete and her teeth with blue paint on them. She was also still bashing her head against the concrete. She has some sort of a wound above her right eye – the source of which is unclear – but it may be a secondary infection from a rake mark, a growth of some sort or a raw wound from bashing her face on the concrete. The damaged tissue on her lower jaw (termed hypertrophic tissue) is still enlarged and I photographed an open wound on the tip of it.

Additionally, Keto, the adult male is continually shadowing Morgan and harassing her. It is clear that Loro Parque is pushing hard for him to impregnate her. With the verdict for Morgan’s court case to be read tomorrow, we can only hope that Morgan will be given the legal right to be taken out of the ‘abusement park’ Loro Parque.

– Dr Ingrid N. Visser

Wound over Morgan’s eye, from an unknown cause. This image was taken on the 10th of Dec 2012. Photo © Dr Ingrid N. Visser
The tissue damage on the end of Morgan’s jaw has not improved. This image also shows her left lower teeth with the tips worn off and blue paint visible along some of their edges. Photo taken 10th December 2012 by Dr. Ingrid Visser.
Loro Parque claim that Morgan is only 4 years old, yet they keep her with a sexually active male, Keto, who harasses her. Photo taken on the 9th December 2012 by Dr. Ingrid Visser.
Morgan is continually shadowed and harassed by Keto, the adult male. Photo taken on the 10th December 2012 by Dr. Ingrid Visser.
Morgan, on the left is dwarfed in size by the adult male Keto, who is the father of the two calves born at Loro Parque. Photo taken on the 11th December 2012 by Dr. Ingrid Visser.

Dr. Visser Says Park Suing Her Over Report Submitted in Court

Digital Journal’s Elizabeth Batt has released a story detailing how Loro Parque’s lawyers are threatening Dr Visser. The case revolves around the evidence Dr Visser has presented, about Morgan. In an attempt to intimidate her and to try and prevent her from presenting her evidence in Court on the 1st of November just past, Dr Visser explains how the threats only fueled the fire to help Morgan. Read the full story.

Merit Procedure Hearing of Morgan’s Court Case, Amsterdam District Courts, Thursday November 1, 2012

The court hearing started just after 9am and finished at 1715, lasting for 8 hours, with short recesses interspersed throughout the day. Three Judges were attending court but only the senior one talked.

Present in the room included representatives from the Orca Coalition and their lawyer; representatives from the Free Morgan Foundation, including expert board members Dr. Ingrid Visser, Lara Pozzato, Jeff Foster and Jean-Michel Cousteau; representatives from the Dolfinarium Harderwijk, including their veterinarian van Elk, the park director Mr. Foppen and their lawyer; representatives from Loro Parque, including head of research Javier Almunia; the representative from the Dutch Secretary of State for the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation and the Ministry CITES expert; members of the general public from all over the world supporting Morgan’s planned rehabilitation and release. The courtroom was full.

Throughout the entire court hearing, the Judges emphasised on multiple occasions that they wanted to perform their roles responsibly by giving due time, care and consideration to Morgan’s case.

Free Morgan Foundation expert board members Dr. Ingrid Visser and Jeff Foster, who both have 20+ years experience working with wild and captive orcas, spoke with expert authority about the observations they made when visiting Morgan on separate and multiple occasions at Loro Parque. They spoke clearly, concisely and presented all evidence and opinions in a scientific manner. They both answered the Judge’s questions honestly and objectively.

Morgan’s lawyer (working on behalf of the Orca Coalition) raised concerns with the transport permit that was issued by the Dutch Government to the Dolfinarium Harderwijk to move Morgan to Loro Parque. He argued the permit has been breached, the clauses included were not respected and the permit itself should never have been issued because it is fundamentally unlawful.

The Dolfinarium Harderwijk representatives constantly repeated themselves throughout the court hearing, to the point that the Judges noted this and asked them to stop. They maintained throughout the hearing that Morgan’s well-being was not an issue that should be raised in this hearing and that the question of her rehabilitation and release from a legal point of view was irrelevant. The Dolfinarium Harderwijk supplied very little evidence, scientific or otherwise, for their case and were unable to substantiate any such evidence that they did submit with citations, references, identification, facts or details when cross-questioned by the Judge or Morgan’s lawyer.

Javier Almunia, head of research, read a few statements on behalf of Loro Parque. Almunia contradicted all observations made about Morgan and her situation by Dr. Visser and Foster. He admitted that stereotypic (abnormal repetitive) behaviours are a common problem in captive orcas but contradicted himself by saying that Morgan’s behaviours and emotions are “normal”. Almunia was unable to provide any details about Morgan’s hearing abilities, despite flagging this as an issue observed (solely) by Loro Parque. His reasons for not yet having Morgan’s hearing abilities tested, despite Loro Parque claiming for a year that Morgan may be deaf, were discredited by Jeff Foster’s expert knowledge of testing for hearing problems in cetaceans.

Morgan’s lawyer explained that rehabilitating and releasing Morgan into the wild will benefit the conservation of the species, habitat and of the individual (Morgan). Morgan is a young, breeding female and currently, the Norwegian population are recovering from a decline. From his expert experience rehabilitating cetaceans (including orcas Keiko and Springer), Foster believes that Morgan “is an excellent candidate” for rehabilitation and release.

The Verdict of Morgan’s Court Hearing will be Released Publicly at the Amsterdam District Courts in 6 Weeks on December 13 at 1330 CET (1230 GMT).

Please read and share the following documents:

From Left to Right: Lara Pozzato, Jeff Foster, Dr. Ingrid Visser & Jean-Michel Cousteau
Lara Pozzato, Dr. Ingrid Visser, Jean-Michel Cousteau and the Free Morgan Foundation volunteers
From Left to Right: Jean-Michel Cousteau, Dr. Ingrid Visser & Representative Dmitry Savelau with 120,000+ signatures from Morgan’s petition supporting her rehabilitation and release in a box to submit to Judges.

Free Morgan Foundation Twitter Account of Merit Procedure of Morgan’s Court Hearing

0901 Just about to go into the court room.

0920 The Judge is not proud of how long it took to get Morgan’s case back in court – there are three Judges (one male, two females) but only one (the male) is doing the talking.

0920 Jeff Foster is brought in as expert witness for Morgan – he has worked both sides of fence (with orca in captivity and the wild) and has rehabilitated three orca.

0922 Jeff Foster visited Loro Parque to see Morgan this week.

The court room is full – Judge says this justifies we spend time on Morgan’s case.

0931 Morgan’s lawyer (the Orca Coalition’s lawyer) says it is important a decision is made in the shortest time possible as time is working against Morgan.

0935 Judge says we want to learn from Morgan’s case – should we do things differently in future?

0940 Judge repeats what Morgan’s lawyer says. Morgan’s lawyer doesn’t know why Dolfinarium Harderwijk are here – he says, “your part is over.”

But Judge will allow Dolfinarium Harderwijk to speak as the Judges want to be as informed as possible to make the right decision for Morgan.

Dolfinarium Harderwijk want to confirm that they acted “correctly” for Morgan – that is why they are here and why they feel they are still relevant to Morgan’s case.

0944 The Judge asks if the reason Dolfinarium Harderwijk are present is because their reputation is at stake.

0944 The Dolfinarium Harderwijk no longer have a rehabilitation permit – it has been given to a different organisation (not an aquarium).

The Judge notes there are a lot of supporters for freeing Morgan in the court room.

0947 Morgan fell into the hands of conners says Morgan’s lawyer, and having Morgan’s right established will contribute to helping other orca. A wild orca belongs in the wild, he goes on to say.

The Free Morgan Foundation represents Morgan’s best interests and will continue to do so no matter what the outcome of the hearing.

Observation – Dolfinarium Harderwijk seem to be here to defend their reputation, not Morgan.

Observation – the amusement parks don’t want to be filmed and Dolfinarium Harderwijk have signed an agreement with the Dutch Ministry to prevent this.

0954 Dolfinarium Harderwijk say if previous decision is upheld they know they made the right decision… is this about Morgan or reputation?

0955 Director of Harderwijk claims they acted correctly – “Morgan is happy and healthy right now”

0956 Director of Harderwijk claims that they put Morgan’s well-being first.

0957 “I went to Tenerife and Morgan is doing well” says Harderwijk director. This contradicts what Free Morgan Foundation orca experts observed when they visited Morgan independently.

“One party has commercial interest” says Morgan’s lawyer.

1009 During a visit to Harderwijk, when invited for a tour of the facility, the Orca Coalition was separated from the State Secretary. This made it very difficult to speak about Morgan.

1010 In out-of-court decisions Loro Parque was considered as the only option for Morgan by Dolfinarium Harderwijk and Loro Parque – they did not talk about rehabilitating Morgan as an option.

A statement made by Henk Bleker, State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (Dutch MP) more than a year ago is mentioned in court “We must have the guts to kill Morgan.”

The Judge says, “If you work with live animals, the well-being comes first. Simple.”

1021 The Dolfinarium Harderwijk defend their decision with Morgan by saying the world is wild, there is suffering & sometimes animals die.

1024 Dolfinarium Harderwijk compares Morgan to a hedgehog – rescuing Morgan is like rescuing a hedgehog or a rabbit. They are claiming it is the same process.

1105 The decision by the Dutch court will be taken seriously by the Spanish court.

1107 The transport permit should never have been granted says Morgan’s lawyer.

1140 Expert witness Jeff Foster takes the floor.

Jeff Foster is asked questions by the Judge.

  • Jeff has worked on the rehab of orca Keiko, orca Springer, as well as bottlenose dolphins Tom & Misha (Tom & Misha were released this year and are currently thriving in the wild) and 5 pilot whales from Florida.
  • “I still think it was a success…” Jeff refers to Keiko’s release, the first ever attempt.
  • Keiko was in captivity almost 20 years. He re-learnt to hunt and feed on live fish. He had 100+ encounters with wild orca and often spent his time in close proximity to them.
  • Springer was a similar age to Morgan and also spent time in captivity. She was rehabilitated and released and has successfully reintegrated with a closely related family pod. She has been re-sighted regularly since her release, including this year which is 10 years after she was released back into the wild.
  • “I think she’s (Morgan’s) an excellent candidate (for rehab and release),” Jeff Foster.
  • “But every day she’s in captivity, her chances decrease,” Jeff Foster.
  • Morgan still has memory of the wild and we can rely on that memory to condition her for release – Jeff Foster.
  • The fact Morgan is young and female means she is more likely to be accepted into a pod.
  • Jeff Foster visited Morgan 29/10 and saw her in 2/3 shows. Loro Parque has a dysfunctional group of orca. Morgan is isolated from the group.
  • There are obvious aggression problems at Loro Parque with the other orca and Morgan – Jeff Foster.
  • “The first thing I noticed she (Morgan) seemed to be in kind of a stressful situation,” Jeff Foster.
  • “When I watched her, Morgan isolated herself from the other animals.” Jeff Foster.
  • It is not normal to have rakes to the extent that Morgan has – Jeff Foster.
  • Typically one dozen rake marks on an orca – Morgan has hundreds.
  • 25-50% of Morgan’s rake marks are fresh, within the last 6-8 weeks.
  • Morgan spends a lot of time underwater, which is encouraging. Typically in captivity, orca spend most of their time logging at the surface.
  • The most difficult thing to teach an orca is to change their focus from above water to underwater – all contact in captivity is above water (feeding, training, trainer interactions etc).
  • Morgan still has wild traits – this is encouraging!
  • The trainers at Loro Parque were observed to only interact with the orca during shows. After shows, the orca are ignored. There was little in the way of secondary reinforcements.
  • In her favour for release Morgan has her age, observed wild behaviours that she displays still and the short length of time she has been in captivity.
  • It would be beneficial to create a full ethogram of Morgan’s daily behaviours, to observe her outside of a show setting, says Jeff Foster. But this would be difficult without the cooperation of Loro Parque.
  • Animals Like Morgan can be conditioned to hunt and eat live fish – we have already been doing that successfully with Keiko, Springer, Tom & Misha.
  • “I think Morgan still has memories of eating live fish and this will help us to condition her to do this,” – Jeff Foster.
  • It is key to integrate Morgan into a wild group but she will still do OK on her own as a solitary / satellite animal (satellite animal being an animal who moves between pods) – Jeff Foster.
  • “I can guarantee one thing – that Morgan will not live a long or happy life in the situation she’s in right now,” Jeff Foster.
  • “I’m not pro-captivity, I’m not anti-captivity. I’m here for Morgan.” Jeff Foster
  • In captive situations orca vocalise less due to the affect that the concrete tank walls has on their acoustics and due to the fact that the orca are always in close proximity to each other – compared to the ocean it is a very quiet environment. Orca lose some communication behaviours in captivity which leads to a lack of mental stimulation.
  • “When I came I had no agenda. I came to observe Morgan and see if he was a possible candidate (for release). And I believe she is.” Jeff Foster

Morgan’s lawyer explains that Loro Parque have a commercial interest in Morgan – 70% of SeaWorld’s turnover is generated by orca. SeaWorld own the other orca displayed at Loro Parque. Scientific research is just a pretence.

1350 Discussing why holding Morgan for scientific research for conservation of the species is invalid – research in captivity only serves zoos. Results cannot be applied to wild orca in a wild setting when research is conducted in an artificial environment that does not resemble the natural habitat in any way, shape or form.

Studying Morgan in a sea-pen as part of a rehabilitation plan would be far more beneficial than studying her in a small tank in a captive facility.

Dr. Ingrid Visser’s latest report shows how Morgan has 320+ rakes and bites from other Loro Parque orca & injuries she inflicts upon herself.

Morgan is bored – she is chewing on the tank concrete, grinding down her teeth, says Dr. Visser whilst showing photographic evidence.

30%+ time Morgan stayed in the medical tank of Loro Parque which is smaller than the tank of Dolfinarium Harderwijk, observed Dr. Visser during her time visiting Morgan.

Morgan is hungry for contact with the general public which shows how desperate she is for social interaction – she is experiencing a lack of attention and interaction from Loro Parque trainers. Both Jeff Foster and Dr. Visser observed this during the times they visited Morgan.

Dolfinarium Harderwijk’s 7 experts from 2010 – 2 study birds (not cetaceans!), 2 work for the captive industry (biased?), 3 are orca experts & all were given an incomplete report about Morgan before the last hearing. The 3 experts have all changed their mind since and now think Morgan is a good release candidate.

Original report (Dec 2010) by Dolfinarium Harderwijk was incomplete – information was withheld from experts – 3/7 of their experts are real experts – these 3 all changed mind.

The worldwide orca community – the majority (if not all) are in favour of releasing Morgan. They have written statements affirming this.

1425 – Dr. Ingrid Visser, orca biologist and Free Morgan Foundation expert, takes the floor

Dr. Visser gives a presentation with a slideshow of information and photographs, talking us through what it all means.

  • “I’m here as a scientist and I’d like to present some facts,” Dr. Visser.
  • Firstly, Morgan is being advertised commercially and is being used in shows to make money for the amusement facility.
  • The aggression from other orca toward Morgan still continues. In the last 4 months, Morgan has received 300 more rake marks.
  • Rake marks on orca aren’t abnormal but the NUMBER of rake marks on Morgan are. This is affirmed by Jeff Foster and Dr. Visser.
  • Trainers don’t have enough experience with orca to recognise their behaviours. What they think is “play” behaviour is actually aggression.
  • Trainer neglect – Morgan attempts to interact with trainers but she just gets ignored. Trainers interact with other orca, like 2 year old orca Aidan. This was observed by Dr. Visser during the multiple times she visited Morgan at Loro Parque.
  • Morgan exhibits stereotypic (abnormal repetitive) behaviours like chewing concrete and violently bashing her rostrum against the sides of the concrete tanks.
  • For every hour Dr. Visser observed her, Morgan chewed on concrete at least 5 times. Morgan has lost nearly 1/3 of the tops of her teeth in only 19 weeks.
  • Morgan has hypotrophic damage which is getting worse – it is swelling and becomeing itchy and irritating and so Morgan is bashing more because of it.
  • Blue paint residue on Morgan’s teeth indicates she is chewing concrete below water as well as above water.

1435 Dolfinarium Harderwijk maintain their claim that they have acted correctly and within the law with regards to Morgan.

1440 Dolfinarium Harderwijk say it is none of the Dutch court’s business how Morgan is doing – that the issue should be taken up with Spanish government.

1445 Judge says maybe the parks’ need to look at the whole situation rather than assessing the situation mechanically.

1452 Dolfinarium Harderwijk make their plea – they say “Can Morgan be released into the wild” is an irrelevant question from a legal point of view.

1453 Head of Research at Loro Parque, Javia Almunia, takes the floor.

Javier Almunia is asked questions by the Judge.

  • Almunia contradicts all observations made by Free Morgan Foundation experts.
  • Almunia claims Morgan has integrated with the orca group at Loro Parque & spends time with them. That Morgan’s behaviour can be considered normal.
  • Almunia claims Morgan’s emotions are the same as those of other orca in captivity AND in the wild!
  • Almunia claims Morgan’s health can be consdered “normal” and goes on to say how Morgan “receives the best husbandry and veterinary care”.
  • Almunia has doubts about Morgan’s hearing abilities – he says this will be checked by team of experts next week.
  • Almunia says they try to fight stereotypic behaviours with enrichment, like secondary reinforcements – Jeff Foster didn’t observe this during his time visiting Morgan at Loro Parque.

1500 Dolfinarium Harderwijk submit photos of wild orca with rake marks but don’t give details of age of orca, sex of orca or year photos were taken. The photos are in black and white, no colour.

  • The Judge asks Almunia about Morgan’s teeth, chewing concrete and the blue paint residue – Almunia admits this is a common problem in captive orca.
  • The Judge questions why Loro Parque first mentioned Morgan’s possible hearing defect a year ago but they aren’t testing her until next week.
  • The Judge wants to know more about Morgan’s possible hearing problem but Almunia is unable to give any answers.
  • The Judge says, “too bad, we want to hear about it now”, regarding the one-year gap between Loro Parque announcing Morgan may have hearing problem & getting her tested. Almunia cannot answer any questions about Morgan’s hearing defect because they don’t know anything – Loro Parque are just claiming she has one and haven’t tested her yet, despite the offers of experts to do so.
  • Almunia says haven’t been able to test Morgan because it takes time to get hold of the high-tech equipment required to test her hearing, and training Morgan the necessary behaviours required to conduct the test takes time.

1509 Morgan’s lawyer has crucial questions for Almunia but the Dolfinarium Harderwijk’s lawyer refuses to answer saying they don’t want Almunia to be cross-examined.

Why are Dr. Visser’s observations so different from what Almunia claims is going on with Morgan? – questions Morgan’s Lawyer.

Why did Almunia talk of auditory tests for Morgan on the 5th October yet still they are no closer to having an answer about Morgan’s hearing abilities? – Morgan’s lawyer goes on to question.

1514 Jeff Foster has done hearing tests on cetaceans before – he says the test takes 20 minutes and you don’t need to teach any special behaviours to the orca for it. The equipment is easy to get hold of.

Morgan’s lawyer has crucial questions to ask Almunia based on the answers he has just given.

1516 Dolfinarium Harderwijk’s lawyer says “no further comments”.

1520 The Dolfinarium Harderwijk’s lawyer says that whether Morgan can be released or not is irrelevant and that she has spent too long in captivity now – they say “let bygones be bygones”. But Morgan has spent more time in the wild to this day than she has spent in captivity and the Free Morgan Foundation experts still agree that Morgan is a good candidate for release – she can be re-conditioned to hunt and feed on live fish, she is still young and she still displays wild traits and behaviours, amongst other evidence to support the idea she can be rehabilitated and released.

1523 Dolfinarium Harderwijk say we were unsuccessful finding her direct family despite best attempts – but Morgan was matched acoustically to her family / close family relatives, who were sighted in 2005 and twice in 2012.

1525 “Morgan is not capable of participating in a pod” claim Dolfinarium Harderwijk.

1528 “She (Morgan) is pretty bossy” claims Dolfinarium Harderwijk – they think she will negatively impact any wild pods because of this, the reason they give for why releasing Morgan will not help conserve the species.

1529 Dolfinarium Harderwijk think releasing Morgan into the wild will result in her “death or permanent loneliness”.

Dolfinarium Harderwijk say they want recent evidence / observations to be ignored and only past evidence available at the time of issuing the permits to be examined during this current hearing.

1540 “If it is said that Morgan isn’t being used for education that is misinterpretation” says Dolfinarium Harderwijk.

1550 Dolfinarium Harderwijk answer questions about the orca photos they submitted showing orca rakes – the photos were taken from an Alaskan orca catalogue but they know little else.

The Dolfinarium Harderwijk are asked how old the orca are in the photos they have submitted as evidence. They say they don’t know but “…we think you can determine their (orca) age by the size of their dorsal fins.” – the Dolfinarium Harderwijk sound uncertain when providing their “expert” knowledge.

1630 The Judge asks both parties questions for clarification what has already been discussed after a short recess.

Morgan’s lawyer explains releasing Morgan will benefit the conservation of species, habitat and Morgan as an individual.

Capturing Morgan contradicts international conventions (such as ASCOBANS) explains Morgan’s lawyer.

1655 Morgan’s lawyer says that one way in which Dolfinarium Harderwijk violated their permit for Morgan is because a point came where they were no longer holding her with the intention of releasing her.

1657 Morgan is valuable to wild populations because the population is still recovering from a decline – Morgan is a breeding female.

1700 Loro Parque pretends to conduct real scientific research says Morgan’s lawyer.

1701 The other orca held at Loro Parque were all born in captivity so are used to a world of little sound, unlike Morgan – thus acoustic studies conducted by the park are irrelevant, especially in relation to the conservation of wild orca.

1705 Members of Royalty, the general public, over 138,000 people from all over the world, supporters in the court room from all over world – they all care about Morgan, the Orca Coalition tells the Judges, all three of whom are listening with their undivided attention.

1710 “How Morgan is doing right now is no longer relevant for the decisions of this case” the Dutch Secretary of State finishes. “Morgan’s well-being is irrelevant”.


HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco Endorses Morgan’s Freedom

HSH Prince Albert of Monaco
HSH Prince Albert of Monaco

“I have a long-standing commitment towards protecting marine biodiversity and marine mammals through scientific understanding and conservation.

I have also been involved in returning animals from my father’s animal park, to the wild, where and when it has been possible.

These very same philosophies persuade to me to believe that Morgan, who is a wild-born orca, should also be given the chance to go from captivity, back to her natural environment.”

Cousteau to Attend Orca Morgan Court Case

Jean-Michel Cousteau will be in Amsterdam to attend Morgan’s court case. Interested Media can schedule interviews.

On Thursday November 1st a court committee will once more decide on the fate of Morgan the orca, currently kept at Loro Parque, Tenerife, Spain. To support Morgan’s case, Jean Michel Cousteau, first son of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau will be attending the court hearing.

Morgan, found in the Wadden Sea in a severely weakened state in 2010, has been living in a Spanish amusement park in Tenerife since November 2011 after a judge decided it was in the best interest of the orca be placed with other orcas. Since her transport to Loro Parque, the orca’s condition has rapidly deteriorated. The merit procedure will analyze the lawfulness of this ruling.

“Orca’s are the most intelligent and sophisticated creatures in the marine environment. We will do our best to convince the judges to release Morgan back in the ocean” said Jean Michel Cousteau, explorer, environmentalist, educator, film producer and founder of the Ocean Futures Society and member of the Free Morgan Foundation expert board.

The Free Morgan Foundation provides the Orca coalition with expertise in the court hearings and has a detailed release plan ready for Morgan.