Three years ago, a young orca was rescued off the coast of the Wadden Sea. In claims of rehabilitating the whale, an aquarium, Dolfinarium Harderwijk, brought her in. She was given the name “Morgan,” meaning inhabitant of the sea in Dutch. After a couple months in captivity it soon became apparent that the Dolfinarium had an ulterior motive for keeping Morgan. Many experts agreed that Morgan was ready to be released, but the aquarium kept her confined in the world’s smallest orca tank, a mere bathtub to a species that moves over 100km a day in the wild. She performed tricks for the public as SeaWorld officials who monitored her progress claimed she was unreleasable.
Enraged, animal activists sought legal action to free Morgan through the Orca Coalition, but the court declared the aquarium’s actions were legal, although false information was presented. An appeal to the hearing was made later in November 2011, but Morgan was sent to Loro Parque (a marine park in Spain) under the pretense and excuse of “education,” the same one SeaWorld uses to defend its corporation. Animal activists argue that there is nothing educational about unnatural behaviors performed in an unnatural environment and that it teaches the youth that it’s okay to imprison animals for entertainment – not exactly my idea of conservation.
At Loro Parque, where all of Sea World’s “excess” orcas are sent, Morgan has been attacked by the other orcas there, an unnatural behavior for female orcas in the wild (only male orcas have extensive rake marks). These rake marks on her melon show the frustration and violence orcas display in a captive environment on themselves and their trainers. In the wild, there has never been an attack on a human and orcas live in highly complex social structures, torn apart with solitary confinement and human control over all social interactions.
Last year, Morgan was unwillingly placed in a tank with Keto, an effort by the aquarium to get her pregnant at the age of 5-7. The natural age of pregnancy in the wild is an average of 14 (based on survey taken in 2005) and a range of 10-21. Activists claim that SeaWorld is using these animals as breeding machines, ejaculating sperm and artificially inseminating orcas to produce more captive animals to profit off of. It should be noted that SeaWorld legally owns Morgan and the court rulings would most likely have been different had the judges known this.
In 2012, another court hearing was made by the Orca Coalition to free Morgan, claiming that Morgan was legally releasable and that the aquariums holding her have provided false information. One such example is the claim by trainers that Morgan is deaf. But this was a complete lie, as shown on a YouTube video in which she responds to an audio signal after the report was made. Yet the judges still ruled that Morgan’s confinement was legal.
On December 3rd, an appeal of the previous ruling will take place in Den Haag of the Netherlands. The Dutch government owes it to its people to right the wrong the previous one has done and take into account all information truthful and honest. But beyond a legal sense, Morgan has become “a ward of the Dutch people to be held in public trust by the Dutch Government until she could be released back to the sea, to rejoin her real mother” (DutchNews.nl). India has declared cetaceans to be “non-human persons” and has banned dolphinariums in their country. It is time for us to raise our voices and take a stand for those that cannot speak for themselves. May Morgan finally be released and rejoin her family – which has been found!
“No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.”
-Jacques Yves Cousteau
© Zach Affolter 12/2/2013