Whatever Happened To.. MORGAN The Orca?
Orca MORGAN in Harderwijk. (c) Ingrid N. Visser
Over one year ago, in June 2010, a young female orca was found alone off the coast of the Netherlands. She was brought into the countryís dolphinarium at Harderwijk for care and attention and there she put on some weight. Since then WDCS together with other organisations has worked hard to give her the chance of returning to her natural environment.
But, what has happened since then? - We ask WDCS anti-captivity lead Cathy Williamson for an update. (Please note: this text will be updated shortly following the court decision to allow Morgan to be transferred to Loro Parque in Tenerife).
1. How is Morgan right now?
A recent visit to the Harderwijk dolphinarium by orca experts Ingrid Visser and Terry Hardie revealed Morgan to be in good health but potentially suffering mentally as a result of her confinement in a small pool lacking environmental enrichment.
2. Is it true that Morgan is not going to be released but transferred to Loro Parque, Tenerife?
The Harderwijk dolphinarium applied to transfer Morgan to Loro Parque. WDCS and the Free Morgan Group, supported by the advice and expertise of orca experts from around the world, tried to persuade the Dutch authorities not to approve this application and to instead allow Morgan to be made available for the Free Morgan Groupís multi-stage release plan. In November, a Dutch court ruled in favour of Loro Parque. Find out the latest.
3. What will happen to Morgan if she is transferred to Loro Parque?
It may be the end of any hope of returning her to the wild. She will become part of the orca show at Loro Parque and spend the rest of her life as a performing orca. First, though, she will have to adapt to a new environment and new pool mates, something that can be very stressful for these animals. Furthermore, WDCS has significant concerns about conditions at Loro Parque, where, tragically, an orca trainer was killed in 2009. Some of these concerns were addressed in a recent article in Outside magazine.
4. What is WDCS doing to help Morgan?
WDCS has joined the Free Morgan Group and has been calling on the authorities in the Netherlands not to support Morgan remaining in captivity but to give her a chance for a better life, with a possible return to the wild.
5. What is the Free Morgan Group and what can it do to help Morgan?
The Free Morgan Group is an informal coalition of international orca experts working together to try to improve Morganís plight. The Group has developed a multi-stage release plan for Morgan which would involve moving her from her concrete tank into a more natural environment in a sea pen where she would remain confined, but with the sights and sounds of the sea around her, while plans can develop to return her to her native waters. Almost nothing is known about Morganís family, although DNA analysis suggests she is from a Norwegian group of orcas who hunt herring. While Morgan gains strength and learns again to hunt and behave like a wild orca, more work can be carried out to look for an appropriate environment in which to release her and, hopefully, an appropriate orca group she will be accepted by.
6. It seems as if only a little has been done to help her up to now. Why is Morgan still in captivity Ė one year after she was found?
Although the Harderwijk dolphinarium has done a good job helping Morgan recover health and gain weight since her rescue, they do not believe Morgan is a candidate for a possible return to the wild. This is unfortunate and has led Morgan to languish in captivity with an uncertain future.
7. How do you estimate Morganís chances of survival in the wild right now?
Itís important to note that the Free Morgan plan is a multi-stage plan. We are not advocating she returns to the wild immediately. Such a release would depend on how Morgan fares in a sea pen in a more natural environment and whether she can hunt for herself. She will not be released until she has shown she can look after herself and, ideally, interact with other wild orcas. Even after release she will be closely monitored. At every stage of the release plan, Morganís health and welfare will be paramount.
8. Is there chance she could be ever reunited with her family?
We hope so. But itís also possible that what we are calling an appropriate orca group would be enough for her to live a full and social life in the wild.
9. Now, for Morgan thereís the choice between a life in a concrete tank where she will be fed and given medical treatment and the chance to survive on her own in the wild, probably rejoining another group of orcas. Who is to decide about Morganís future?
It should really be Morganís own choice. When she was brought into captivity it was with the intention of returning her to the wild when she had returned to good health. She should now be given that opportunity, to live a full life in the wild and not confined to a concrete tank, performing for visitors.
10. And as a last, but important question: Cathy, how can people help?
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>> Read an article by Cathy Williamson in the Parliament Magazine