Requests for Independent Veterinarian Inspection of Morgan
Ever since Morgan was captured, concerns about her welfare, from the public, veterinarians, organizations and scientists has prompted a number of requests for a totally independent veterinarian examination. The situation has escalated since she was transferred to Loro Parque.
We provide here some of the correspondence regarding these requests, as well as outline some of the details.
Morgan was transferred to Loro Parque on 29 November 2011. Within months of her transfer there was grave concern for her welfare, which was severely compromised. During the court case for Morgan the Orca Coalitie (the Orca Coalition, which had filed the cases for Morgan in court) had requested to the Dutch Government that they instigate an independent veterinarian inspection. That request was turned down as it was deemed ‘out of their jurisdiction’ despite the fact that they had ordered Morgan to be sent to Loro Parque in order to improve her welfare.
DolphinMotion, one of the plaintiffs for the Orca Coalitie, wrote to Loro Parque directly on 24 September 2013. They respectfully requested a veterinarian inspection as the Free Morgan Foundation had been supplied confidential evidence that Morgan had further damage to her teeth and she had what at the time were thought to be ‘mouth ulcers’.
Later these were described as a single “focal lesion on the tongue, compatible with candidiasis” by Loro Parque. You will see that the picture of Morgan’s mouth on 1 May 2012 shows a number of lesions. The images show the progression of the lesions over the course of seven days.
‘Candidiasis’ has been implicated in the death of three captive orca (“Kanuck”, died in November 1974 at SeaWorld San Diego, USA (page 242, Hoyt, 1984) and “Ai”, died August 1995 at World Safari Co Ltd, Japan (The Orca Project, Marine Mammal Inventory 2009). More recently (December 2015), “Unna” (SeaWorld San Antonino, USA) contracted Candidiasis and died. This was a drug-resistant form of Candidia.
Drug-resistant pathogens have been reported infecting SeaWorld‘s orca before, such as the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that inflicted Tilikum. The largest orca in captivity, he starred in the acclaimed documentary Blackfish.
Sadly, he remains captive at SeaWorld Orlando (USA).
It is worth noting that as of July 2016, no form of the fungus Candidia has been recorded in wild orca.
Such examples illustrate how concerning it is to have orca in captivity and also that Morgan’s welfare is compromised. Unfortunately, they are not the only issues as at least 23 different measures for compromised welfare have recently (2016) been documented at Loro Parque as part of ongoing concerns about the orca. But Mr Kiessling, the owner and president of the private theme park, Loro Parque, didn’t see the 2013 request that way.
Mr Kiessling not only refused an inspection but also made a number of statements that were unprofessional and untruthful. When discussing DolphinMotion he stated “…we do not see the legitimacy of your organization … ” despite the fact that DolphinMotion is recognised by the Dutch Government and that it is a registered organisation in the Netherlands.
Mr Kiessling falsely stated that “… Dr Visser had refused our invitation to have access to the holding area of the orcas …” and he went on to accuse Dr Visser saying that she had “… intentionally misused and manipulated information .”
When responding to that refusal on 16 October 2013, DolphinMotion explained that it was disappointed about the refusal and that Mr Kiessling’s accusations were offensive. The organisation called on Mr Kiessling to give specific examples of ‘manipulated information’ as all evidence by Dr Visser had been presented with photographic and/or video and data supporting it. DolphinMotion also requested evidence of the invitation that was extended by Loro Parque to access the holding area for the orca. Mr Kiessling has never responded to either of those requests.
DolphinMotion also pointed out that if Loro Parque had nothing to hide, then an inspection would be a simple and effective way to show that the park was in fact ‘transparent’ about its animal care, as it kept claiming.
Therefore, DolphinMotion kept trying and contacted some larger NGO’s (non-governmental organisations) asking them to help. This time, a letter was sent with 21 registered NGOs, comprising thousands of members. That letter, dated 31 October 2013 has also yet to receive a response from Mr Kiessling.
Such a pattern of behaviour, (refusing inspections by an independent veterinarian) is a red flag to those who truly care about these animals, including the members of the NGO’s who respectfully made the request. To most people such behaviour illustrates that commercially-driven interests are taking priority over welfare concerns.
Internal Veterinarian Inspections
During the time that Morgan has been held at Loro Parque we have become aware of six different ‘reports’ that discuss Morgan’s health. We present them here to allow the public to find them in one location and to judge for themselves how limited these are, as well as how they gloss over important welfare considerations, such as the ‘Five Freedoms’.
We also provide a presentation that was submitted to the Dutch High Court (Raad van State) by Dr Visser, challenging the 2013 report submitted by Dr Greenwood. In that presentation Dr Visser illustrates how Dr Greenwood failed to correctly identify the dental damage on Morgan, completely missed any stereotypies as well as the damage they were causing and didn’t address any other welfare issues.