What is the rumor surrounding Morgan, the orca?
Videos of wild-born killer whale Morgan have made their way around the internet, drawing attention to the young orca who has repeatedly “beached” herself on tank platforms. Initially, it was believed that Morgan was intentionally “beaching” herself. “Beaching,” however, might be the wrong word to describe her behavior.
Beaching occurs in the wild when a whale ventures into shallow water when chasing prey and gets too close to the shore, unable to return to the water. It’s also thought to happen with older, ill whales or as a result of becoming disoriented due to military sonar exercises.
When Morgan was first seen sliding up onto the platform after a May 16, 2016 performance at the Canary Island attraction, Loro Parque. Some believed she was beaching herself to escape the misery of captivity and daily performances – a sort of suicide attempt. The spectator who filmed Morgan on the platform did so for 10 minutes before having to exit the arena.
Within days, a second video emerged of a February 2016 Loro Parque show. Morgan was seen in the tank behind the performance area and is witnessed launching herself onto a side platform and remaining there for nine minutes. The performance ends and eventually a trainer motions for Morgan to return back to the water, which she does.
However, 42 seconds later, she returns to the platform and remains there for the remainder of the video and an unknown amount of time after.
So, what can explain Morgan’s uncharacteristic behavior?
Experts in the field, including those with The Dolphin Project, have said it’s impossible by just observing the videos to determine the motive behind Morgan’s behavior. However, the Free Morgan Foundation has documented dozens of instances of violence and harassment against Morgan by the other orcas at Loro Parque. Some orca experts suggest her beachings are an attempt to get away from the “bullying” by these other whales.
How did Morgan come to be at Loro Parque?
In 2010, Morgan was discovered off of the coast of the Netherlands, swimming alone and underweight, but not stranded. A local marine park, Dolfinarium Harderwijk, was granted a permit to “rescue, rehabilitate and release” the killer whale, who was likely 3 years old at the time. After a year and half at the park, where she was taught performance tricks and other behaviors, Morgan was transferred to Loro Parque, not rehabilitated and returned to the sea, as was required by the initial permit. At the new theme park, Morgan is housed with captive-born orcas, including males who could potentially impregnate her, which would be a violation of the certificate issued by the European commission that allowed the transfer.
The most mysterious and troubling aspect of Morgan’s situation is that she is claimed as property by SeaWorld, the “owner” of the captive-born orcas also at Loro Parque. No paper trail has been uncovered that shows how Morgan went from a protectorate of Dolfinarium Harderwijk and the Dutch government to property of the U.S.-based SeaWorld corporation. Now that she is, however, she’s living in a tank with incompatible orcas who physically and emotionally harm her, enough that she’s possibly risking her life by repeatedly leaving the water to escape the harassment.