SeaWorld’s Shell Game – Are They Trying to Get the Young Orca That Stranded in Dutch Waters?

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Within days, a young orca that stands a chance of being reunited with her family may wind up instead in SeaWorld’s circus. Morgan, the whale that was found lost and starving in Dutch waters last year is slated to be moved to the Loro Parque amusement park off shore of Africa where SeaWorld has some of their orcas.
Will this whale eventually be mixed in with SeaWorld’s collection? Would we even know?

First some background:
In his excellent article, Blood in the Water, author Tim Zimmermann gives a thorough and engaging account of the events that led to the death of a trainer by one of SeaWorld’s whales, Keto, in Spain’s Loro Parque amusement park. In the telling of the story, Zimmermann shows that Loro Parque’s orcas were shipped from SeaWorld’s Texas and Florida amusement parks in 2006 to ‘help it [Loro Parque] start Orca Ocean’ and to ‘showcase these remarkable animals’ (see below).

Blood in the Water author Tim Zimmermann: “As I learned, SeaWorld was a key partner in the launch of the orca program at Loro Parque, loaning the park four killer whales to help it start Orca Ocean. SeaWorld’s vice president of communications Fred Jacobs explained it to me this way in an e-mail: “Loro Parque is a highly respected zoological institution, and we have worked with them for years. The relationship was conceived primarily as a breeding loan and to allow Loro Parque to showcase these remarkable animals.” He added, “The deal differed only in scale from the dozens of similar partnerships we are part of at any given time. The addition of Orca Ocean, a facility that is comparable in size and sophistication to anything found in the U.S., also provided us greater flexibility in managing our collection of killer whales.
At the time the loan was announced in December 2005, Jacobs publicly said there was a “financial arrangement,” but he declined to give details. What’s clear is this: SeaWorld would be deeply involved in managing its killer whales from the moment they arrived in February 2006. SeaWorld personnel oversaw their care and training at Loro Parque, and Brian Rokeach, a senior trainer from SeaWorld San Diego, supervised the training session in which Martínez died. To the extent that his death might be considered a precedent for what happened to Brancheau or evidence that working with killer whales in marine parks is risky and potentially lethal, SeaWorld was intimately aware of the details.
I asked Jacobs if Martínez’s death should be considered relevant to OSHA’s conclusions regarding SeaWorld and trainer safety. “Loro Parque is an independent and highly respected zoological institution with its own protocols,” he responded. “Because it is in the Canary Islands, however, it is not subject to OSHA. Because we are contesting OSHA’s citations, we are unable to discuss it further, except to reiterate that their allegations reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of the safety requirements of caring for these animals.”

But the question is, what did SeaWorld get out of the deal?
Why would SeaWorld ship off four young, valuable whales to an island off the coast of Spain, Tenefire (part of the Canary Islands chain) to an amusement park previously known for its beautiful birds – Loro Parque translates to Parrot Park – and continue to provide supervision and trainers?
One possible answer to that showed up in the form of a calf born to one of the very young females last year, leading one to wonder if the intention was to breed these young orcas.

Some of SeaWorld\’s orcas live in the Canary Islands

But why on an island closer to Africa than Spain? Maybe the motivation lies in the laws governing corporations there: “Special Economic Zone and Special Tax Regime have been established, in order to create a favourable business environment for offshore business purposes. Thanks to its location, the Canary Islands are chosen particularly by European entrepreneurs and investors for offshore business management and offshore company formation.”
Or possibly, SeaWorld may be perched in a place where they can acquire the wild orcas they desperately need to supplement their inbred gene pool without the constraints of U.S. laws.

The fact that Loro Parque is set to acquire the young female orca, Morgan, that was found and returned to health by an aquarium in Holland last year is telling. Originally the Dutch aquarium had planned to attempt to return the whale to her family, but somehow that plan was scrapped not long after SeaWorld sent people to visit (see Why Is Seaworld Interested In The Young Orca That Stranded In Dutch Waters?).
Please help the scientists who wish to explore all the options for this young whale before committing her to a life as a brood whale or circus performer.
(Updated information) Please visit the Free Morgan website or send an email to:

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