Dutch Marine Park Says Rescued Juvenile Killer Whale Morgan is Destined for Life in Captivity.
In early December, 2010, the Dolphinarium in the Netherlands who rescued a wayward Killer Whale, Morgan, released a report announcing that she should not be returned to the wild. However, a number of orca advocacy groups have come forward to start campaigning to Free Morgan from a doomed life of Captivity. (Read update, posted Feb 11, 2011 about new legal action taking place on Morgan’s behalf, at the bottom of the article.)
Morgan is a young killer whale, who was captured in the Wadden Sea, off the north coast of the Netherlands, on June 23, 2010. Orcas live throughout the world’s oceans, but are rarely seen in the Wadden Sea; the last recorded sighting off the Dutch coast was in 1947.
Morgan was taken to the Harderwijk Dolfinarium in the Netherlands. She was fed fish and given antibiotics. On June 29, the dolphinarium announced that she would have to stay in captivity for 3 to 6 months. On July 5, it was announced that she was in good health.
On August 3, the dolphinarium invited the public to see Morgan. (See video here: YouTube Orca Morgan) Throughout the summer, and until the facility closed for the season in late October, visitors streamed in to see Morgan, who quickly became the star attraction. She was advertised on the dolphinarium’s website, and she attracted many visitors. The nearest captive orcas in Europe are in Antibes, France, more than 1000 miles away.
Estimates of Morgan’s age range from 2 to 4 years. She is still young for an orca. However, there is no evidence to suggest that she would not be able to survive in the wild. There are two other cases of young orcas, Springer and Luna, who were both separated from their respective families at less than two years of age. Springer and Luna, who came from resident orca families that spend summers in the coastal waters of British Columbia and Washington state, were fully able to hunt for themselves. Therefore, the evidence shows that Morgan would also be able to catch her own fish. Read more about Morgan at, Marine Connection.
It is noted that experts identified Morgan as most likely originating from a population of orcas who hunt the Norwegian Spring Spawning herring. As more research is carried out every year into orca populations in the North Atlantic, it is possible that Morgan’s family may be identified in the near future. It would be tragic, for Morgan, her family and community, and for wild orca research, if Morgan was conditioned solely for captivity in an enclosed artificial facility and the door literally shut forever on any chance for her return to the wild and reunion with her family.
Is it possible to persuade the Dutch Government to reconsider Dolfinarium Harderwijk’s decision that the young female orca, is indeed a suitable candidate for release into the wild?
It seems ironic that the captivity industry fully expects cetaceans to cope with the violence and trauma of chase, capture, removal from community, family and habitat, incarceration in unnatural conditions, training and acceptance of dead food — but readapting back to where they evolved for over fifty million years is considered risky and problematic. ~ Leah Lemieux, Author, “Rekindling the Waters: The Truth about Swimming with Dolphins”
The Free Morgan Group is comprised of a wide range of experts who have not only extensive experience with wild orca but also, to varying degrees, experience with the release of captive cetaceans. Last month, the Free Morgan Group produced a detailed, multi-stage release plan. This Release Plan includes options for a “half-way-house” scenario as well as full-release feasibility phases. (Disclaimer: This document and translations are © 2010 to http://www.freemorgan.nl/ and its Expert Panel. It is prepared in association with the Free Morgan Release support group.)
“The Free Morgan Release Plan was submitted to the Dolfinarium Harderwijk and made available to the public, with the aim of providing legitimate and accurate information as well as well-balanced and informed Release Plan options. Additionally it was hoped that such a document would help the Dolfinarium Harderwijk in its decision-making process. Unfortunately, no mention of the plan is made in the report regarding Morgan, prepared by the Dolfinarium Harderwijk, nor is it referred to by any members of their advisory board. The Free Morgan Group considers this to be an important oversight that is detrimental to Morgan’s future health and welfare.
The Free Morgan Group continues to call for Morgan to be released from the concrete tank and be given the chance to undergo rehabilitation with the possibility of a return to the wild. A semi-natural site has been identified at Delta Park Neeltje Jans in the Netherlands, that would offer Morgan a much larger enclosure in a sea-water environment with a natural benthos. This site would also provide Morgan with a better chance to recover her health and a return to natural behaviour that would prepare her for a possible return to the wild. Without this opportunity, the Free Morgan Group fears Morgan’s confinement in captivity will be detrimental to her long-term health and survival. Orca life expectancy in captivity is much lower than for their wild counterparts. In the wild, female orcas such as Morgan survive an average 50 years and up to 80 or even 90 years and by doing so contribute to the continuity and survival of their orca community. Wild female orcas, like Morgan, might be expected to raise 1 to 4 offspring during their lifetime.”
“The Free Morgan Group respectfully acknowledges the concerns of the ‘Seven Experts’ who were called upon by the Dolfinarium Harderwijk and the Netherlands Government to provide their opinions as to the feasibility of the release of Morgan. However, we feel that they may not have been provided with all the necessary and relevant information, much of which is identified in our Free Morgan Release Plan.”
One of the experts, ironically, is Dr. James Bain, who is currently retained by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment Corporation (Same as Busch Entertainment Corporation) as a contract veterinary consultant. “The same Dr. Jim McBain that was involved with obtaining the killer whale Gudrun from Dolfinarium Harderwijk for SeaWorld under questionable circumstances, and the same Dr. Jim McBain that was involved in assessing the health of Springer (A-73) prior to her successful release and painted a grim picture of her medical status and prospects of survival in the wild.” (Courtesy; Gayle Swigart, Olympia Washington.)
” Lanny Cornell, James McBain, James Antrim, and Brad Andrews travelled to Japan, picked up three pseudorcas from Kamogawa SeaWorld and escorted them to the Dolfinarium in Amsterdam.
The issue raised by this transaction is how Sea World USA could trade animals which belonged to a Japanese marine park for the loan of the killer whale from Amsterdam. When interviewed by FRONTLINE, Brad Andrews and Jim McBain denied knowledge of a direct exchange of Kamogawa’s animals for Gudrun.”
In a news release by Orca Network on December 11th, in regards to Morgan, they state: “Morgan should be given a sea-pen and human caretakers, and should not be kept in captivity.” And we, at The Orca Project, agree.
UPDATE from The Orca Project- Feb 11, 2011:
A coalition of Dutch animal rights groups, the Orca Coalition (Orka Coalitie), has retained the services of an attorney to represent Morgan. Their goal is to challenge the Dutch Ministry to consider the release plan introduced by the Free Morgan Group and question the validity of the Dolphinarium’s report that would doom Morgan to a life in captivity. You can view a press release from the Orca Coalition at their website here: http://www.orkacoalitie.nl/ or view a press release by The Orca Project: HERE
UPDATE from The Orca Project- April 11, 2011:
In early April, 2011, our friends at the Marine Connection and FreeMorgan.com visited Morgan at Dolphinarium Harderwijk in the Netherlands. She has grown substantially since first captured, and they are saddened to find her in a small pool (approx. 10m x 4m) an in about 4m of water. Read the report of their visit here: “Heightened concern for Morgan’s future” and view the slideshow of photos taken during their visit below:
Sign a petition!
You can sign a petition, supporting Morgan’s release. Click HERE: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/Free-Morgan-The-Orca/
Write a letter!
You can write to the Dutch government.
You really can make a difference, no matter where you live – Amsterdam, Alaska, Argentina, or Africa. One of the best ways to get governments and organizations to act is to put pressure on them. Sample letters are provided below. Please feel free to copy and paste, or write your own text, if you’d prefer.
Contact the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture, and Innovation, which is the government agency responsible for Morgan:
Mr. Maxime Verhagen
Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation
Dr. Henk Bleker (State Secretary)
Minister for Agriculture and Foreign Trade
Ministerie van LNV
2500 EK Den Haag, Netherlands
tel: + 31 77 465 6767
You can also contact the Dutch Embassy or Consulate in your home country. Here is a link to a listing of Dutch embassies and consulates.
Here is a sample letter to the Dutch Government:
I am writing to express my concern for the young orca, Morgan, who was captured and brought to the Harderwijk Dolfinarium in June, 2010. My understanding is that the Dolfinarium would rehabilitate Morgan, the release her. But that is not happening.
Morgan should be released back to the wild. A concrete tank is no place for a wild animal who can swim up to 100 km per day. Captive orcas do not live as long as they do in the wild. They can develop physical and psychological problems in captivity. For example, two trainers were killed by captive orcas during the winter of 2009-2010 at Loro Parque in Tenerife and at SeaWorld in Orlando. Orcas don’t belong in captivity.
The recent recommendation by the Harderwijk Dolfinarium completely ignores the animal welfare issues associated with keeping orcas in captivity.
Moreover, the Dolfinarium’s report ignores any possible alternatives for a life in the wild for Morgan. I am aware that Morgan’s family has not yet been confirmed, but that should not preclude a return to the ocean. One option, for example, would be to transport her to a temporary sea-pen in Norway, with the understanding that complete freedom is the ultimate goal. She will initially require human care, but there are international orca experts ready to assist with a relocation plan.
Please do not let the reputation of the Netherlands be blemished by a decision to wrongly confine Morgan to captivity. Please ensure that you make a decision consistent with Dutch nature policy which claims to ensure that nature is preserved for future generations.
Please ensure that Morgan is brought back to the ocean, where she belongs.
(your name and address)