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October 12, 2011

Humane Society International Condemns Dutch Government Decision to Allow Wild Orca to be Sent to Spanish Theme Park

Humane Society International

  • Orcas belong in the wild. Mogens Trolle/istock

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Humane Society International has condemned the decision of the Dutch State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation to permit the transport of Morgan, a young, wild-born female orca, from the Netherlands to Loro Parque in Tenerife, Canary Islands. Morgan has been kept at the Dolfinarium Hardewijk since June 2010, after having been rescued in a severely weakened state in the Wadden Sea.

“It is irresponsible to send Morgan to a facility in Spain that has consistently failed to safely maintain captive orcas,” said HSI senior scientist and orca expert Naomi Rose, Ph.D. ““The captive-born orcas at Loro Parque have seriously injured one trainer in 2007, killed another in 2009, the one calf born there was rejected by his mother at birth, and one of the five animals is covered in scars and wounds, suggesting he is being bullied by the others. This is not a safe environment to send Morgan into.”

HSI strongly supports a plan to move Morgan to a sea pen where her rehabilitation can continue, with a view to eventually releasing her back into the wild. Recent analysis of vocalizations has identified her population, so the chances of her being accepted by a free-roaming group of whales are good.

On August 3, the Amsterdam District Court issued a temporary injunction blocking the Dolfinarium’s planned transfer of the orca to Loro Parque. The judge ruled that the State Secretary was remiss in leaving the decision on Morgan’s future in the hands of a commercial enterprise.

In principle, the trade in cetaceans for primarily commercial purposes is strictly prohibited in the European Union. Under the terms of Article 8 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora, an exemption may only be granted when the live specimen concerned is “intended for research or education aimed at the preservation or conservation of the species”. However, there is little evidence that any scientific research with the aim of conserving orcas is actually taking place at Loro Parque.

In addition, there is mounting evidence that keeping orcas in captivity is extremely detrimental to their welfare and poses a risk to their keepers. A recent report released by HSI and The Humane Society of the United States reveals that captive orcas have higher mortality rates, and display more aggression to each other and to humans than their wild counterparts. The report also suggests they suffer chronic stress, leading to increased susceptibility to fatal infections.


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


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