Status Welfare Report (2012)

Originally, Morgan was to be held at Loro Parque as an interim measure whilst the legality of her continued captivity was debated.  The main consideration stated as to why she was sent to this facility, despite data to show otherwise, was so she could socialise with other orca.

Following her transfer to Loro Parque, she was brutally and continually attacked by the orca held at Loro Parque.  She was also subjected to excessive sexual pressure from a male orca who she was often locked into the same tank with (despite breeding not being authorised by her CITES Transport permit).

The author of this status report (Dr Ingrid Visser), is experienced not only in wild orca research but has also observed orca in captivity in 12 facilities around the world, recorded data about Morgan for more than 77 hours, over eight days (spread over a 24 day period).

During that time-fame, an unprecedented 91 aggression events were documented, all involving Morgan.  A similar study at another facility, looking at aggression in captive orca (observing them for 1,872 hours, i.e., 78 days), recorded only eight aggressive episodes (once every 234 hours).

Morgan, in comparison, when at Loro Parque, was attacked, on average, more than once an hour. Put another way, Morgan is over than 100 times more like likely to be attacked than the orca in the other study.

Between her arrival at Loro Parque and the publication of this report in June 2012, Morgan had been inflicted with more than 320 puncture and bite marks (all documented by photographs). This does not include the damage she had self-inflicted from abnormal and repetitive behaviours such as banging her head on the concrete tanks.

Additionally, Morgan was wearing her teeth down from chewing on the concrete. Teeth wear in captive orca often leads to infections. These abnormal behaviours are a direct result of boredom and frustration from being held in a featureless environment, in which she is provided little if any stimulation.

There is a clear lack of empathy for this animal from the trainers, who ignore her calls for attention and her cries for help and disregard aggressive attacks on her by the other animals, even when they are within meters of these events when they occur.

Read more details about this tragic example of why orca do not belong in a concreted tank in the ‘Report on the Physical & Behavioural Status of Morgan, the Wild-Born orca held in Captivity at Loro Parque, Tenerife, Spain.’

Extracts of some of the photographs (with their original captions) are below.
thumbnail of Visser (2012) Report on the Phyisical Status of Morgan-V1.2

Photos Extracted from Visser (2012) – Captions Are Directly from the Report

Figure 6. Morgan (head out of water, on right) as she is rammed and pushed backwards by the two female orca, Skyla and Kohana. Note the amount of water being displaced as Morgan is forced backwards.

Focus on Mistreatment of Morgan

Our evidence focuses on how mistreated Morgan is at Loro Parque and how detrimental this is to her health. We include photographs showing her being rammed, bitten and attacked (see some examples below).

Our reports are based on more than 77 hours of observations on Morgan. Although Loro Parque will claim that these attacks are ‘normal’, you can read in the supporting letters from orca scientists, that this is not the case, particularly in the wlid.

In a comparative study, of captive orca, who were observed for 78 days (not hours!), only eight events involving aggression were recorded. This is in comparison to the 91 attacks observed which involved Morgan.

Trainers Ignore Morgan’s Attacks

Figure 7. The full-frame photograph of Figure 6. Note the trainers standing to the right. During all the attacks recorded by the author the trainers were present, yet ignored them.

Morgan Rammed and Attacked

Figure 8. Skyla (female orca, left, obscured by gate) rams Morgan (right) and partially lifts her out of the water. NOTE: Morgan’s lower caudal peduncle is concave from force of ramming (at impact site). Water is displaced at impact site & on Morgan’s left (right of frame). Morgan weighs 1364 kg, requiring her be to hit with a substantial force, in order for her to be lifted out of the water this high.

Trainers Do Nothing to Prevent Attacks & Keep Morgan with Dysfunctional Orca

Figure 11. During a training session, Morgan (partially obscured behind rail), rises out of the water in an attempt to avoid a bite from one of the two orca in the tank with her (Skyla and Kohana). This photo is one of a sequence of images, showing the open mouth and teeth progressed along Morgan’s body as she rose up and then slid down, to try to avoid the conflict.

Stereotypic Behaviour Results in Morgan Damaging Herself

Figure 23. Morgan exhibits a hypertrophic scar on her lower jaws, most likely a result of repeatedly banging her chin on the concrete walls. Such stereotypic behaviour can become self mutilating to the point where the subcutaneous injury can become painful and itchy. Further damage to Morgan’s rostrum through stereotypic behaviour inflicted on (2 July 2012). The trainers (on the day she inflicted these wounds and after they were inflicted) commanded her to push a ball repeatedly on the end of rostrum, in order to receive her allocated fish. Also note that the tips of Morgan’s teeth are being worn off from chewing on the concrete (also see Figure 24).