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Dutch Court Sides with Morgan the Orca

Killer whale may be saved from captivity

Morgan the orca. Photo by Ingrid Visser

Animal protection groups around the world are celebrating the decision of a the Amsterdam District Court, which ruled today that Morgan, a young killer whale, who was rescued of the Dutch coast last year, should not be sent to a marine circus – at least not yet.

Commercial marine circuses had been pressing to take Morgan to Loro Parque, a Spanish amusement park in the Canary Islands that has four other orcas and is associated with SeaWorld. The argument they present is that they are best equipped to give her the care she needs. But once they have her in their grasp, they would never let her go. Instead, she would simply be put on display.

Instead, Morgan is to remain in the Harderwijk Dolphinarium for now, while more research is conducted to find a long-term solution.

Members of the Free Morgan Group have put together a plan to gradually reintroduce Morgan back into the ocean. SeaWorld and other commercial interests have argued that she may not survive in the wild since orcas are very social animal who need to be with their family group or pod.

(That, of course, is the exact argument that the animal protection groups offer as the reason Morgan and other orcas do not belong in marine circuses.)

“This is a massive victory,” said Wietse van der Werf of the Orca Coalition of Holland, which includes seven organizations. “This is the first time in history that the export of an orca has been blocked by a judge. It exposes the international trade among dolphinariums as a very lucrative industry.”

Orcas live up to 100 years in the wild. In captivity they frequently die before they reach age 10.

The Free Morgan scientists explained to the judge that Morgan could be moved to an artificial bay, where she would get used to being in the open sea again. She would be electronically tagged and trained to follow a boat and return to the boat when called. If the researchers find that she has linked up with a pod of orcas, they would leave her but continue to monitor her movements.

For now, Morgan is being moved to a tank five or six times larger than the enclosure where she has been since March and where she can be together with other dolphins.

What do you say? Return Morgan to the ocean? Or send her to an amusement park in the Canary Islands? (OK, it’s fairly obvious what our view is! But let us know in a comment or on Facebook.)