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August 3, 2011

HSI Applauds Dutch Court Decision to Block Transport of Orca to Spanish Marine Park

Humane Society International

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AMSTERDAM—Humane Society International applauds the Amsterdam District Court’s decision to block the transport of a young female orca to a marine park in the Canary Islands. The wild orca named Morgan has spent the past 13 months being rehabilitated in a concrete tank at the Dolfinarium Harderwijk after being found in a severely weakened state in the Wadden Sea.

HSI has strongly supported a plan by the Orka Coalitie (orkacoalitie.nl/), a coalition of Dutch animal protection groups, and the Free Morgan Group (freemorgan.nl/) to move Morgan to a sea pen where her rehabilitation can continue with a view to eventually releasing her back into the wild. The Dolfinarium, however, planned to move her permanently to the Loro Parque Orca Ocean exhibit in Tenerife, Canary Islands. A permit to export her was granted by the Dutch Ministry at the end of July. To prevent the orca from being moved out of the country, the Orka Coalitie applied for a temporary injunction.

In his verdict, the judge expressed grave doubts about whether the orca would really be the subject of scientific research if transported to Loro Parque. During the hearing, the Orka Coalitie’s lawyer made explicit reference to a submission by HSI senior scientist Naomi Rose Ph.D., which highlighted the dearth of peer-reviewed scientific research on orcas coming from Loro Parque.

“The dolphinarium industry has long insisted that orca exhibits foster research and conservation, but there is very little concrete evidence that this is actually true,” said Rose. “Four orcas from SeaWorld were exported to Loro Parque in 2006 under the guise of scientific research, yet only one technical article has resulted. This is a very poor publication record in six years.”

After attending the hearing in Amsterdam, HSI EU director Joanna Swabe, Ph.D., noted that the ruling clearly showed that Henk Bleker, the state secretary of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, should never have left the decision-making about Morgan’s future entirely in the hands of enterprise that draws its income from the commercial exploitation of marine species.

As the judge said, the State Secretary failed to adequately investigate whether Morgan could be returned to the wild and did not fully examine whether the move would truly be for the purposes of scientific research. Loro Parque is essentially an amusement park, and in the EU, trade in cetaceans for primarily commercial purposes is prohibited.

Morgan must now remain at the Dolfinarium Harderwijk while the Ministry further investigates the possibilities of returning her to the wild. In the meantime, the Dolfinarium has agreed to provide the orca with more space and to give her the opportunity to interact with other captive dolphins.

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Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organizations—backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide—On the web at hsi.org.

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