Free Morgan: Captive Killer Whale Attempts Suicide

Morgan the captured orca. Photo Credit: Jenny Vantwillert

(ANIMALS IN CAPTIVITY/KILLER WHALES) A recent video clip, filmed anonymously by Morgan Monitors and posted onto the Dolphin Project’s website, reveals a SeaWorld-owned orca named Morgan beaching herself after a performance at Loro Parque in the Canary Islands.

The unsettling footage shows Morgan remaining motionless on the concrete ledge for about 10 minutes at the end of a show. Spectators are shown walking by oblivious, while some tourists reportedly stopped to take selfies with her. Activists say the footage is very upsetting, but the theme park claims voluntary standing is a natural behavior in wild orcas.

Yet in April, Morgan was also recorded banging her head into a metal grate. The footage serves as further proof that keeping animals in captivity leads to mental health issues like severe depression and anxiety.

Read on to learn more about Morgan’s history, and see how you can help Free Morgan. — Global Animal

Morgan beached herself for more than ten minutes after the orca show at Loro Parque in Tenerife. Photo Credit: Dolphin Project
Morgan beached herself for more than 10 minutes after performing in a show at Loro Parque in Tenerife. Photo Credit: Dolphin Project

Huffington Post UK, Sara C. Nelson

Unsettling footage of a SeaWorld-owned orca deliberately beaching itself after a show at a waterpark has devastated animal lovers.

Killer whale Morgan launched herself onto a concrete slab after performing for tourists, where she lay motionless for more than 10 minutes. Morgan lives at Tenerife’s Loro Parque along with five other orcas owned by SeaWorld.

While most show-goers paid no heed to the distressed orca, some stopped to take selfies with her.

Footage of the incident was shared on Vimeo, where one viewer remarked the animal:

“Looks to me as if she was trying to take her own life, I don’t blame her.”


“Free the orcas. Their place is in the ocean. Shame on humans who exploit them.”

While a few wild orca populations occasionally beach themselves temporarily while hunting, they otherwise remain constantly in motion and even swim while they are sleeping.

While on land, there is a risk that the weight of their bodies out of water can crush their internal organs and other structures.

The footage has renewed calls for killer whales to be released back into the wild.

Morgan on concrete slide-out, Loro Parque, 05/16 from Dolphin Project on Vimeo.

Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project said: “While we cannot explain the reason for her behaviour, the juxtaposition of a previously-wild orca against the stark backdrop of the park’s performance area is unsettling, to say the least.

“Some people took selfies with Morgan in the background. Sadly, Morgan was still out of the water by the time the videographers had to leave.

Born in the wild, she was dehydrated and emaciated when she was captured in 2010 under a “rescue, rehabilitation and release” permit. This has never been fulfilled and Morgan remains in captivity. (You can support continuing legal efforts to free her here.)

Morgan the captured orca. Photo Credit: Jenny Vantwillert
In 2012, Morgan was captured in the wild and taken to the Dolfinarium in Harderwijk, Netherlands. Photo Credit: Jenny Vantwillert

Originally taken to the Dolfinarium in Harderwijk, Netherlands for rehabilitation and then release, Morgan was later transferred to Loro Parque by order of a Dutch court.

On average, female orcas in the wild live between 60-80 years. In captivity however, the average length of time they survive is less than nine years.

In the wake of the footage of Morgan beaching herself, further footage – believed to be of the same orca – has been published by an anonymous animal activist.

It shows one of the orcas at Loro Parque panicking in a small medical pool. The animal is in clear distress and repeatedly bangs its head against the metal gate in what some believe is an attempt to escape.

The Dolphin Project’s Ric and Helene Hesselager O’Barry travelled to the park last year to investigate the park. They said: “We were shocked at the poor living conditions and commercial exploitation of the orcas and bottlenose dolphins there.”

A statement from the park published by Mail Online said: “The video published by the Dolphin Project on its website is a new attempt at manipulation through exaggeration and dramatization of a completely normal situation in which there is no problem for the animals.”

A PETA probe into the park observed orcas “who had fractured teeth and other injuries, floating listlessly in tiny tanks and begging for food.”

Conservationists with the Free Morgan campaign visited her in April and made some grave observations:

After a visit to check on Morgan, we can report that she continues to have compromised welfare. She exhibits new rake marks and increased self-mutilation injuries in the form of hypertrophic tissue damage on her lower jaws. Unfortunately, whilst we were at Loro Parque (LP), the staff did their best to keep Morgan away from our cameras. However, during one brief encounter we managed to obtain a photograph of her open mouth that shows the continued wear of her teeth and alarmingly, also appears to show that she has a fractured tooth. How that tooth was fractured is unknown. A conversation, tank-side, with Dr Javier Almunia and two of the Loro Parque vets resulted in the claim by them, that she had no broken teeth and no other health issues. We therefore requested a closer inspection of Morgan but that was refused, as was a request for a photo of her teeth up close. As Morgan briefly swam in the show tank, whilst we talked with the LP staff, we observed Keto, the adult male, closely shadowing her. Furthermore, for much of the time that we could view Morgan, including during the shows, she was either locked inside the medical tank or held in the east tank, with Tekoa, a male. After the announcement by SeaWorld (on the 17th of March 2016), that they would stop breeding their orca we are concerned that no ‘mistakes’ are made when monitoring her cycle and that she doesn’t get pregnant by ‘accident’. We strongly believe that Morgan should be separated from these two males at all times.

We also often observed her chewing on the concrete. There were tank renovations underway when we visited and the water level was dropped. This allowed us to document the damage on the concrete walls where she (and perhaps the others) had been chewing. Recent video on line, showing Morgan thrashing around inside the medical tank, has raised many concerns with us as well as the public. With all these issues at hand it is clear that Morgan’s welfare is compromised. We have called for transparency from LP and we hope that our request, as well as the continuing expressions of concern from the public, will prompt them to be open and honest. If we get relevant info, we will keep you posted.

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