Out of the many tragic stories of orcas who have been condemned to a life in captivity, the case of six-year-old Morgan is arguably one of the most heart-wrenching of all.
This young female was found off the coast of the Netherlands in 2010 in a very poor state of health. After being nursed back to health by Dolfinarium Harderwijk, it was hoped that she could be released back into the wild. However, a 2011 judgement by the Dutch courts quashed those hopes, instead ruling that she be sent to Loro Parque in the Canary Islands. The Agriculture Ministry of the Netherlands felt that she would be “unlikely to survive in the wild,” and would benefit from the company of other killer whales in the amusement park.
However, Dr. Ingrid Visser – killer whale expert and founder of the Free Morgan Foundation – has documented a shocking tale of Morgan’s bullying at the hands of her tank mates (most of whom have demonstrated a long history of violent and dysfunctional behavior). While observing her over a period of eight days, Visser recorded no less than 91 “aggression events,” in which she was “attacked, on average, more than once an hour.”
A drawing depicting her various injuries can be seen below:
In response to these heartbreaking observations, the Free Morgan Foundation quickly launched a court case to secure her freedom. The case was funded by U.S. philanthropist Sam Simon, and has attracted supporters as diverse as French environmentalist and film producer Jean-Michel Cousteau.
However, the campaign has also been plagued by setbacks. After courts ruled that Morgan should stay in captivity in December 2012, the Foundation immediately launched an appeal against this decision. The verdict of this hearing was originally scheduled to be announced on Jan. 15 of this year, but was then put back until Feb. 19.
When the verdict failed to materialize on that date, The Morgan Foundation were informed six days later that the judgement would be delayed for an additional six weeks. A Facebook post by the Foundation promised to let supporters know “when the date would be confirmed,” and thanked them for their patience.
While Dutch courts dither, Morgan sadly continues to suffer.
As Morgan’s family has been found in the wild, there is no reason why she could not be a successful release candidate – apart from SeaWorld’s potential desire to use her for their captive breeding program. The two male orcas at Loro Parque are owned by SeaWorld, so could it be that SeaWorld’s desire to exploit Morgan as a source of “new genetic material” is the real reason she has not yet been freed?
If you’d like to help, The Free Morgan Foundation has put forward a variety of suggestions. These range from downloading flyers to show your support, taking a pledge never to visit a marine amusement park, and building a “sand Morgan” on your local beach to raise awareness. Also, make sure you sign this Change.org petition, and share it far and wide!