“A juvenile killer whale called Morgan was found alone in Dutch waters on June 23, 2010 and has been cared for since then by the Harderwijk Dolphinarium. Now that Morgan appears to be in good health, the Free Morgan Support Group , together with a global team of experts, has presented a solid plan to return her to her native habitat. The plan was designed and endorsed by scientists and experts in orca physiology, behaviour and acoustics.” This whale faces a life in captivity, and a decision may be made on November 7th, 2011. 11/7/11 Today in court the Free Morgan Foundation experts revealed that the dolphins in the Dutch aquariumDolfinarium Harderwijk have herpes, and that the aquarium officials were aware of this at least since 2009. These are the animals that the aquarium agreed to allow Morgan to mingle with as a result of the first court hearing several months ago. Fortunately, the aquarium dragged their heels on compliance and Morgan was not put with the dolphins, but the dolphinarium’s lack of disclosure shows both disrespect to the courts and irresponsibility towards Morgan’s care.
The court will make a decision regarding Morgan’s future on November 21st, 2011. The following is from research conducted at the Dolphinarium:
VAN ELK ET AL.—GENITAL HERPESVIRUS IN BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS
Besides benign proliferative lesions in
the genital mucosa, genital herpesvirus
infection is a known cause of severe
Genital herpesvirus infections
can occur in the gravid uterus and
the neonate upon birth, and they may be
dangerous because neither fetus nor
neonate is immunocompetent (Avgil and
Herpesvirus infection has
been described as a cause of abortion,
stillbirth, and neonatal disease in cattle,
pigs, dogs, horses, and humans (Avgil and
Ornoy, 2006; Foster, 2007; Schlafer and
In California sea lions
(Zalophus californianus), genital herpesvirus
infection also has been implicated in
the development of urogenital tumors,
which are a significant cause of morbidity
and mortality in this species (King et al.,
2002). Throughout the history of both parks,
dolphins had been exchanged between the two
parks and with other facilities for breeding
purposes. At the time of this investigation,
October 2007–October 2008, all dolphins from
both parks were kept together in the Netherlands
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We acknowledge the training staff of
Dolfinarium Harderwijk and Parc Asterix and
Vivian Emmer for assistance with obtaining
and processing of the samples and the
inspection of the animals.
In and of itself, there is nothing about a sexually transmitted disease that is in anyway any different from other diseases, it is just how the viruses are transmitted. Like humans, all species on this planet are vulnerable – but unlike us they are not able to take precautions. It is up to those who profit from keeping animals in captivity to assure that precautions are taken on the animals’ behalf.
“A juvenile killer whale called Morgan was found alone in Dutch waters on June 23, 2010 and has been cared for since then by the Harderwijk Dolphinarium. Now that Morgan appears to be in good health, the Free Morgan Support Group , together with a global team of experts, has presented a solid plan to return her to her native habitat. The plan was designed and endorsed by scientists and experts in orca physiology, behaviour and acoustics.” This whale faces a life in captivity, and a decision may be made on November 7th, 2011. Please contact the Free Morgan Foundation and The Orca Coalition for more information.
Press release from The Orca Coalition:
Amsterdam, November 6th, 2011 – “Four of the seven Dolfinarium scientists previously cited in the case to Free Morgan are now turning against the proposal to export Morgan to Loro Parque.
This fact will be reported by the Orca Coalition in the summary proceedings of November 7th when the future of orca Morgan will again go before Dutch officials.
The new developments seem to change the course of the case, and with this the release of Morgan is closer than ever.
The fact that Morgan’s family group has been located, combined with the knowledge that large groups of orcas are frequently spotted in the vicinity of the proposed release area, has increased the likelihood that Morgan will be released. Three of the experts of the Dolfinarium, including John Ford* have now even offered their help in executing the release plan written by the Free Morgan Foundation.
In addition to the scientists who are united in the Free Morgan Foundation, more than twenty experts are prepared to confirm this in a written statement.
At the trial for Morgan’s release, Monday, November 7 2011 The Orca Coalition will be assisted by one of the experts of the Free Morgan Foundation. Together we will show the judge that releasing Morgan is the only feasible decision.
(The Orca Coalition is a collaboration between the Dutch wildlife conservation organizations Dolphin Motion, EDEV – Een Dier Een Vriend, Bite Back, PINK!, Sea First Foundation, The Black Fish and Four PAWS.)”
*John Ford is well known for his work with the Northern Resident orcas of the Salish Sea. He is an Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Zoology, UBC, and Research Scientist, Pacific Biological Station, Fisheries & Oceans Canada I’ll keep you updated as news comes in!
Imagine watching a talk show – maybe you’re puttering around the house or emailing a friend – when something comes on the TV that you find hard to fathom. Your attention is now fully focused on the television screen and confusion enters your mind when you hear the what the orca expert says in answer to the hosts’ question – “yes”, he says, “orcas eat humans”. So much for the effectiveness of amusement park education programs.
The absurdity of having the person in charge of the well-being of the little lost orca Morgan being so misinformed or disingenuous would have been impossible to miss and difficult to ignore, even if you’d never seen an orca or really new much about them. Some things are just wrong, and as time goes on it dawns on you that the Dolphinarium where Morgan is being kept has no plans to really help the young whale find her family.
Instead they are making plans to ship little Morgan to a Spanish amusement park off the coast of Africa where she will have to live her life in captivity, in the company of SeaWorld’s displaced orcas.
So what do you do? If you are Nancy Slot-Slokker you become increasingly concerned that nothing is being done to ensure that the orca is well cared for or will ever have an option to be released into the wild. And one day you just decide to do something, the result of which culminated in the successful legal effort that has stalled the plans to send Morgan into a life of captivity. (For more information on Morgan and the organizations involved, go here). The effort is huge, and like Nancy you can jump in and help. For more information about the legal defense for the orca Morgan, or to make donations (they have some terrific t-shirts for sale here) please go to The Orca Coalition website.
In Nancy’s own words:
“Never in my life have I seen a killer whale, so I honestly don’t know what came into me…
Something very wrong was going on, that much was clear, and I hoped someone would do something for Morgan. Suddenly it came to me… why should I expect somebody else to take action?
One thing led to another and before I knew it I was having coffee with Wietse van der Werf to see what we could do. Neither of us really had the time (I have two young kids), so we agreed we would do something small, mainly to raise awareness.We each found people willing to join forces…if we’d all do something we should be able to pull this off.
Our group grew, and soon we were a coalition of several animal welfare organizations: The Orca Coalition.
I never expected it to be this difficult, time consuming and frustrating, but at the same time, the longer the battle lasted, the more determined we were to see that Morgan is released! I’m proud to say I am part of this fantastic group of inspiring people who are fighting relentlessly to save this magnificent creature from captivity!
In spite of all the setbacks we’ve encountered, we never lost hope, and recent developments have given me enough confidence to say: I look forward to the day I’ll see Morgan for the first time in my life, the day she is released into the wild, where she belongs…”