An update on Morgan
27 January 2014 - 10:09am
Knowing the facts is one thing…
… seeing things with your own eyes is a different story.
1437 days, or 34,499 hours or the unbelievable amount of 2,069,925 minutes – this is the time a wild Norwegian orca called Morgan had spent in captivity when the appeal hearing for her case was heard in front of the Raad van State, the Dutch High Court, on December 3, 2013. Many of us knew how long Morgan was kept in a tank by then as we followed and were involved in her battle for freedom since her capture in 2010, but seeing these numbers on a huge banner (created by UK supporters Shari and Megan) was a different story...
More than 80 supporters from different countries (including Belgium, the UK, Switzerland, Norway, Germany, the USA, New Zealand and the Netherlands) travelled to The Hague to support Morgan’s fight for freedom. The court not only had to move the hearing to the biggest court room but also were kind enough to bring additional chairs into this room to accommodate the numerous supporters. The hearing lasted 1.5 hours and Morgan’s interests were very well represented by lawyer Mr. Wijngaarden and expert witnesses Dr. Ingrid Visser and Jeff Foster. The other parties, the Dolfinarium Harderwijk (who had Morgan in their facility before she was shipped to Loro Parque in Spain in November 2011) and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (who made the decision that it was in Morgan`s best interest to be shipped to Loro Parque) were represented by their lawyers, with dolphinarium staff (including the head veterinarian of the Dolfinarium Harderwijk) also present. Loro Parque, where Morgan is currently held, was represented by Dr. Javier Almunia, the head of orca research at the facility.
In October 2013, after several requests to inspect Morgan at Loro Parque made by the Free Morgan Foundation and Dutch organisations involved in the case were turned down, a request for an independent inspection was submitted by several international conservation and animal welfare NGOs, including WDC. This request was turned down as well, on the grounds that “… in granting the right for inspection to an external organization not linked to any competent governmental agency, professional association or certification entity, we would be undermining the Inspection capacity which is in Spain exclusively reserved by law to the competent authorities”.
A report submitted by Loro Parque’s veterinary consultant since 1986, only hours before the deadline stated that: “Morgan’s physical condition and health are excellent”. This late submission meant that Free Morgan Foundation experts and Morgan’s lawyer had very little time to react to these claims, which cannot, by any means, be called independent. Furthermore, the report was based on only a couple of hours of observation time. In contrast, Dr. Ingrid Visser, orca biologist and expert scientist for the Free Morgan Foundation, observed Morgan for more than 77 hours for her “Report on the Physical & Behavioural Status of Morgan, the Wild-Born Orca held in Captivity at Loro Parque, Tenerife, Spain” () in 2012 and has observed Morgan on several more occasions.
This raises the question as to how on earth the Free Morgan Foundation is supposed to be able to get independent data about Morgan’s physical and psychological condition other than from experts consulted (and paid) by Loro Parque? The only way independent assessors have been able to observe Morgan so far has been by entering the park as a visitor, with observations and photographs being collected from the public viewing area during entertainment shows.
However, Loro Parque has taken more and more measures to prevent Morgan being observed by external experts. The view to the tanks has been blocked (as shown on page 18 in Dr. Visser’s report mentioned above) and it is only possible to see the orcas for a few minutes before and after the shows, which take place three times per day.
A photo taken by Dr. Visser during her visit in November 2013, showing the worrying state of Morgan’s teeth and rostrum, was posted on the Free Morgan Foundation Facebook page and shared more than 3,400 times (and many more times through independent postings on other pages, such as the “Blackfish the Movie” Facebook page, resulting in another 500 shares and 250 comments).
In February, the Judges will announce their verdict for Morgan’s appeal process, as to whether the right decision was made to relocate her to Loro Parque. Originally it was planned to announce the verdict on January 15, but the court delayed the announcement to February 19. One can only hope that they will agree that Morgan’s abuse should not continue for a single day longer and she should be given the chance to return to her natural habitat.
Banner image copyright Marjon van der Vegt
Morgan image copyright WDC/Ulla Christina Ludewig