Loro Parque Company Supports the ‘Earth Hour’ Initiative

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The Loro Parque company will turn off the lights this Saturday, 24th March, in support of the ‘Earth Hour’, an initiative by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). All three parks, Loro Parque, Siam Park and Poema del Mar, will be switching their exterior lights off between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm in order to support the efforts of raising awareness about the climate change and its negative effect on the biodiversity, a cause with which a company has a firm commitment.

According to the WWF, this campaign goes beyond a symbolic act of turning off the lights during one hour. Over the time, it has turned into a major global movement to address a problem that affects every one of us: the climate change. Since the start of the ‘Earth Hour’ in Sydney in 2007, thousands of cities and towns have turned their lights off in solidarity with the initiative. At the same time, social networks lit up in an effort to encourage all the governments around the world to take active political measures regarding the energy issue.

The Loro Parque company maintains a strong commitment with the protection of the biodiversity and, for that reason, it implements through Loro Parque Fundación numerous environmental projects around the world. From the energy saving perspective, one of the main company initiatives was a creation of its own photovoltaic plant, which allows to reduce emitting of more than 2 000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year (which is equivalent to the emission from about 800 cars).

The climate change is a complex problem and one of its most dramatic effects is the loss of biodiversity. This serves as the principal reason for the company to join to the ‘Earth Hour’ initiative and, thus, reinforce its own efforts realized on a daily basis: raising awareness about this problem and encouraging the public to support the investigation work for the preservation of the environment. In addition to turning off the lights, Loro Parque, Siam Park and Poema del Mar, through their respective social network profiles will be encouraging the public to join this initiative, in order to achieve a bigger impact in an effort the situation on our Planet.

Open Letter to Dolphinaria-Free Europe

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Dear Ms. Dodds,

I am writing you in reference to your letter from March 13rd were you expressed concerns about Morgan and her unborn calf. First of all, let me say that we appreciate your concern about orca Morgan. I can ensure you that all the staff of Loro Parque shares your concern, not only about this particular individual, but for every single animal (nowadays more than 10.000) of over 500 species hosted in its facilities.

I am very aware that Morgan was rescued in 2010 in the Waddensea. I am also aware that she would be now dead if the staff from the Dolfinarium Harderwijk wouldn’t have performed an extraordinary work recovering her from the brink of death. In 2011 we got the request from the Dutch Authorities to host Morgan and integrate her in our killer whale group, as the only other option was euthanasia. Loro Parque accepted to take care of Morgan in the same way we have done with many other animals (chimpanzees, gorillas, penguins, parrots, seals, etc.) in need of help.

Loro Parque follows strictly all the national and international regulations on zoo practice, including the compliance with the CITES regulations. Every year Loro Parque applies for hundreds of CITES permits and manages several hundreds of animals either on Appendix I or Appendix II of the convention. Thus the professionals of Loro Parque have an extensive knowledge and experience on the interpretation of the CITES permits and regulations. Loro Parque received Morgan with a CITES permit which clearly states she can be used for “the advancement of science/breeding or propagation/research or education or other non-detrimental purposes”. Free Morgan Foundation maintains the strange interpretation that this bans the breeding of Morgan, which is absolutely nonsense. This opinion of Free Morgan Foundation has never been supported by any CITES authority. At the beginning of 2016 Free Morgan Foundation addressed to the Spanish and Dutch authorities requesting the annulment of the CITES permit issued to transfer Morgan based on this peculiar interpretation and both rejected the request and considered it unfounded. Moreover, the Spanish authorities replied in a letter to the Free Morgan Foundation were it is clearly stated that “the only binding document for this [Spanish] management authority is the CITES certificate accompanying the specimen”, adding that “In this regard, it should be noted that the Community Certificate issued by the Dutch CITES MA doesn’t set any express legal limitation to breeding and authorized to keep the orca for research, breeding or educational purposes.”. As you can imagine, if the Spanish CITES authority has clearly expressed that there is no limitation to breed Morgan, Loro Parque must not accept other interpretations but this from the competent authorities.

It is not true that EAZA and WAZA do not recognize the possibility of breeding orcas, in fact both organizations made clear statements against the unilateral decision of SeaWorld of not breeding them. Please, contact the EAZA offices if you have any doubt, they will be able to inform you that within the Marine Mammal Taxon Advisory Group of EAZA there is a Monitoring Breeding Program for Killer whales (Orcinus orca), hence it is clear that the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria does not have any problem or limitation on the breeding of the species.

So, it is clear that Loro Parque does not violate any conditions of the transfer of Morgan, nor any European regulation, nor the ASCOBANS regional agreement of the Convention on Migratory Species.

Regarding to your statement on Morgan I must say that it contains many mistakes and misunderstandings. For example, it is not true that the alternative of a seaside sanctuary was never legitimately considered, in fact during 2011 and 2012 there was a complex technical debate about the possibilities to release Morgan or house her in a sea pen. The Dutch Court took into account several release plans (up to three different with major changes in the course of three months, which says something about its robustness) presented by the Free Morgan Foundation, and decided that none gave a significant chance to survive in the wild for Morgan.

It is false that Loro Parque has published no research using Morgan. Since the arrival of Morgan by the end of November 2011 Loro Parque Fundación has funded and implemented 15 scientific projects with Orcinus orca, and has also collaborated with different research groups that requested the scientific use of the group of orcas. The research activities were focused in bioacoustics, genetics, physiology, ethology, biotracking and biometrics, and as a result of this scientific work with killer whales just in the last six years six scientific papers have been published in peer-review journals (and other three are submitted), eleven communications have been presented to international congresses, and one doctoral, two masters and six diploma theses have been produced. All the research projects were selected taking into account the potential benefits to the conservation of the species. Hence, the published research will benefit the knowledge on how the cocktails of toxic substances would affect the immune system of wild killer whales. The paper on killer whale audiometry will provide essential information to study how the noise pollution in the sea could affect the killer whales.

Among these research projects, Morgan has participated in five of them that resulted in peer reviewed scientific publications:

DESFORGES, J. P., LEVIN, M., JASPERSE, L., DE GUISE, S., EULAERS, I., LETCHER, R. J., ACQUARONE, M., NORDOY, E., FOLKOW, L.P., HAMMER JENSEN, T., GRONDAHL, K., BERTELSEN, M.F., ST. LEGER, J., ALMUNIA, J., SONNE, C., DIETZ, R. (2017). Effects of polar bear and killer whale derived contaminant cocktails on marine mammal immunity. Environmental Science & Technology, 51(19), 11431-11439.

LUCKE, K.; FINNERAN, J.; ALMUNIA, J.; HOUSER, D. (2016) Variability in Click-Evoked Potentials in Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) and Determination of a Hearing Impairment in a Rehabilitated Whale. Aquatic Mammals 42(2):184-192

ALMUNIA, J. Analysis of call sequences in Orcinus orca. Submitted

ALMUNIA J., MOLINA-BORJA, M., KRASHENINNIKOVA, A., SÁNCHEZ, P. Social Interactions Analysis in Captive Orcas (Orcinus orca). Submitted

ST. LEGER, J., ORTÍN, S., LLORENTE, M., ALMUNIA, J., ÚBEDA, Y., Personality in captive Killer whales (Orcinus orca): a rating approach based on Five Factor Model. Submitted

And also in others that resulted in seven communications in International Scientific Symposiums

LALUEZA, E.; MORALES, H.; ALMUNIA, J. (2017) Analysis of cohesion calls in Orcinus orca. 45th Symposium of the European Association for Aquatic Mammals. Genoa

MORALES, H.; LALUEZA, E.; ALMUNIA, J. (2017) Analysis of call sequences in Orcinus orca.45th Symposium of the European Association for Aquatic Mammals. Genoa

UBEDA, Y.; LLORENTE, M.; ALMUNIA, J. (2016) Personality in Zoo-Housed Killer whales: a rating approach based on Five Factor Model. 44th Symposium of the European Association for Aquatic Mammals. Benidorm

KIRCHNER, A.C.; OJEDA, M.; ALMUNIA, J. (2016) Comparing day and night vocalizations in Orcinus orca. 44th Symposium of the European Association for Aquatic Mammals.Benidorm

ROSA F.; SANLUIS LEAL, J.C.; LUKE, J.P.; ALMUNIA, J.. Looking for number of degrees of freedom at Orcinus orca calls for the design of a classifier. XXV International Bioacoustics Congress.Murnau, Germany 2015

ALMUNIA, J.; SANLUIS, J.C.; LUKE, J.P.; ROSA, F. Automatic localization by acoustic methods of “Orcinus orca” individuals at LoroParque facilities. 42nd Annual Symposium of the European Association for Aquatic Mammals.Puerto de la Cruz, Canarias, Spain 2014.

SANLUIS, J.C.; LUKE, J.P.; ROSA, F.; ALMUNIA, J. Smart IP net to acquire and detect bio-sounds. 42nd Annual Symposium of the European Association for Aquatic Mammals.Puerto de la Cruz, Canarias, Spain 2014.

Regarding the first viable calf in orcas, please review carefully the literature you are citing. The age of first viable calf (that means the first calf that survives) was established around 12 years for the killer whales off Washington State (Olesiuk et al., 2005). But you must understand that this is the first viable, which means that killer whales can get pregnant before, lost the first calf and after year and a half have their first viable. There are recordings of several wild killer whales in Washington State Coast giving birth viable calves when they are just 9 years old (R38 was born in 2000 and gave birth to R52 in 2009; R24 was born in 1987 and gave birth to R32 in 1996; I92 was born in 2000 and gave birth to I125 in 2009). That means wild orcas can get pregnant when they are seven years old, further, seven years has proven to be a common age of sexual maturity for Icelandic killer whales in zoological parks. The fact is that animals reproduce instinctively, and are not able to control their sexual impulses or their reproduction. As a consequence, only sexually immature animals can be considered too young to breed. Morgan’s age has not been clearly established, she was estimated to be around 2 and 4 when she was rescued in 2010, so she could be between 10 and 12 years old now. Judging by her length, and using a table of age/length for North Atlantic Killer whales her age could even be 13 years.

It is totally false that the report made by Sánchez and Molina supports the findings made by Dr. Visser, as the authors clearly measured agonistic behaviours in less than 1% of the time they observed the orcas, clarifying that aggression was even less frequent. On the contrary Dr. Visser depicted the group of killer whales of Loro Parque as the most aggressive in the world, having a rate of aggression 100 times higher than any other. The conclusions of Sánchez and Molina suggested that could be signs of stereotypy, but that was not clear in the 100 hours of observation. It is clear that the results of Dr. Visser are not supported by this independent research made by expert ethologists. Similarly, the observations of Dr. Naomi Rose, are not part of a scientifically driven study with a professional methodology, but just the opinion of a person who leads an anti-dolphinaria organization.

Finally, after depicting a terrible situation (which disagrees with all the professional independent experts in animal welfare that have evaluated the situation of the Killer whales in Loro Parque during the last years) you propose the magical solution of a sanctuary that will solve all the problems just because the animals will have “more natural” conditions. That’s a simplistic way to approach animal welfare, especially because there are no experiences on sea-pens, thus you cannot take for granted that they will mean any positive change. Nowadays there are no marine sanctuaries, in fact despite the few existing projects that have spent several hundreds of thousand dollars there are no places selected, there are no permits to build the sanctuaries, there are no environmental impact analyses and, most important, there are no permits to transfer animals to the sanctuaries. As you should know, placing non-indigenous cetaceans in a sea-pen would pose at risk of genetic contamination the wild populations in the region, and also would mean an epizootic risk, because of the potential pathogens that could be released and affect the wild populations. It is highly unlikely that the European environmental authorities will issue permits that would pose at risk the wild populations of cetaceans. After carefully evaluating most aspects of sanctuaries by comparison to professional and certified facilities, it is clear that these would not improve the welfare of captive bred cetaceans and even of wild caught cetaceans having lived several decades in captivity. The relocation to a sanctuary would not, in the long term, eliminate the conflict between activists and professional institutions caring for the animals, since no matter how big the sanctuary, it will always be hopelessly tiny compared to the natural marine mammal habitat. Marine mammals adapted to a life in captivity have formed tight bonds with trainers and are constantly rewarded for their activities. This would need to me maintained in sanctuaries to ensure high levels of activity and continuous well-being of the animals. Maintaining optimum conditions for cetaceans in captivity requires a wealth of experience and is very cost intensive. The animals require intensive care by veterinarians, trainers, technical personnel as well as the careful control of a wide variety of parameters. In sea pens or sanctuaries the ingestion of foreign objects, pollution by oil spills, and chemical and biological hazards stemming from the sea or from land runoff cannot be controlled or would require costly additional measures. Captive cetaceans today reach high ages, and orcas may become older than 50 years. This constitutes a very long financial and ethical commitment for operators of any type of facility and would have to be guaranteed in the light of the proposed financing structures underlying any such activity. It seems highly unlikely that this level of funding can be easily reached, at least judging by the difficulties that the sanctuary projects have in order to get just the money necessary to find a suitable place.

I am sure the ruling of the Dutch court will soon probe for eight time that you are wrong.

Sincerely,

Javier Almunia

A baby chimpanzee Happy celebrates her first birthday in Loro Parque

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Loro Parque has special plans for the Pascua festivities in a very special way, as they come just in time to celebrate the first birthday of Happy, a baby chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) that was born a year ago in the family of chimpanzees and she was wholeheartedly received by the entire Loro Parque team and visitors. She was named “Happy”, as the day she was born is also known as the International Day of Happiness.

It is curious that the name really fits the little chimpanzee, who, having been born on such a special day, is very playful and lively. During her first months, just like most mammals, she spent in the arms of her mother, Silvy. Little by little, she has been progressing normally and becoming more and more independent.

By now, the little Happy has already begun to investigate the area, in some occasions completely on her own. Her social skills, a quality common in chimpanzees, are already showing to be strong. Furthermore, her brothers, Bongo and Gombe, are now experiencing what it is like to live with a baby chimpanzee for the first time and they are learning how to take care of her. This is something that will come useful to them at a later age, as they start their own families.

It is quite a privilege to be able to witness the natural behaviour of such wonderful animals, who share with us, humans, 98% of the genetic code. It is worth noting that these animals are also in need our protection as they are considered endangered. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that more than the 50% of the chimpanzees that exist in the world are going to disappear by 2050. In this sense, Happy, along with the other members of her family, is an important ambassador of her counterparts in the wild and she helps getting the attention of the public about the problems that animals are facing in their natural habitats affected by human activity.

Loro Parque is happy to about the progress Happy is making, both physiologically and socially. It reaffirms, once again, the highest quality of the care provided by the team of the zookeepers aimed at guaranteeing the maximum well-being of the animals of the park, which was named the best zoo in the world by the travel portal TripAdvisor in 2017.

Never is a better time than now to visit Loro Parque and personally observe the young chimpanzee Happy’s behaviour and personality, as well learning more about the daily life of the family of these charismatic animals who have found a second home in Loro Parque and who are acting here as true ambassadors of their counterparts in the wild.

Morgan and Miranda: a story of a friendship beyond borders

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A story of a relationship between the orca Morgan, rescued in the Netherlands, and Miranda Theunissen, a native Dutch, is far from ordinary. Suffering from severe health issues (she is completely deaf and has severe eyesight problems), Miranda is returning in full spirits to Loro Parque for the sixth time now to be able to visit the orca Morgan, having established a strong connection to the animal. Loro Parque, a renowned zoological park most recently recognized in the TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards as the best Zoo in the World, has been home to Morgan since 2011.

Miranda first met Morgan more than seven years ago now at Harderwijk Dolphinarium, shortly after she had been rescued in a shallow area off the Wadden Sea coast. From the very first time Miranda saw Morgan, she knew they had a special connection and they became very attached to each other, which marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Miranda visited Morgan 88 times while she was staying in the Dutch Dolphinarium, and spent long hours accompanying her and assured having bonded strongly to her.

Miranda recalls that while she was visiting Morgan during her recovery stay at Harderwijk Dolphinarium, that they both could communicate with each other using eye contact and signs, and Morgan stayed close most of the time when Miranda was around. From the pool, she played with her, dived and danced to have Miranda’s attention, and she even offered Miranda her own fish. Miranda noticed Morgan was always sad when she left on her first visits, but she soon learned that Miranda would always come back, so she got used to the routine of seeing her often. Miranda saw Morgan getting better and gaining weight.

Right from the start Miranda knew, that Morgan would not be able to stay in Harderwijk Dolphinarium for long. Their facilities were simply not adapted for an animal like her. It was in July 2011 when the Netherland’s Government made the decision of transferring Morgan to Loro Parque, as it was considered an ideal place where she could integrate with other orcas that already were receiving optimal care. On the other hand, the park also had strong demonstrated accomplishments on research, education and raising awareness about the conservation of biodiversity and protection of the natural habitats.

Miranda definitely felt so happy when she knew Morgan was being transferred, but also slightly sad at the same time, as she would not be able to see her as often. Soon enough, however, Miranda was able to start visiting Morgan in Loro Parque. This year marks the sixth time that she has been in the Park.

When Miranda saw Morgan for the first time in Loro Parque, it was an emotional moment, for Miranda and for everybody who was present. She says Morgan, acted as if at first she could not believe it was Miranda. Then later, she would closely follow Miranda the entire time and even imitate her movements, a demonstrated bond between a deaf orca and a deaf Dutch woman that brought them together.

During this most recent trip, Miranda visited the park every day and she did not miss one single orca show. She sees Morgan extremely happy with her fellow orcas at Loro Parque, and she promises to come back every year, her vision permitting.

Miranda ensures all trainers at Orca Ocean and the whole Loro Parque family should feel very proud of the work they are doing, because Morgan could not be in a better place, and she really does look different to when she appeared in Wadden Sea. She is now happy, Miranda says, and that is why she can happily go back to the Netherlands, because she knows her friend is exactly where she needs to be.

The Princess of Senegal, Sokhna Bally, visits Loro Parque

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During this past weekend, Loro Parque received a visit from Sokhna Bally, a Princess of Touba en Senegal. She is well known for her work for the cause of assisting and empowering women. The Princess visited Tenerife to attend the Exemplary Woman Awards presentation held by the Más Mujer magazine. During this event, the princess received a prestigious award from Ms. Delia Herrera, Exterior Action Councillor of the Island Council of Tenerife. Thus, Sokhna Bally took advantage of her trip to pay a visit to the Best Zoo in the World, according to TripAdvisor.

Sokhna Bally made a tour of the Park and enjoyed its main exhibitions, as well as the spectacular presentation of orcas. She also had an opportunity to learn more about the work of the Loro Parque Fundación, located in the emblematic Animal Embassy, a facility whose design is primarily inspired in the African Continent.

The Princess of Touba advocates for Mame Diarra, a foundation created to support neglected women and children in Senegal, and she is also the founder of the Mandiara Association, which focuses on Senegalese women living abroad. During her visit in Tenerife, in addition to the Exemplary Woman Award, the princess received the title of an Illustrious Visitor of the Island.

Ms. Bally did not want to leave the Park without expressing her gratitude in the Loro Parque’s Book of Honour, in which she emphasised that the visit to Loro Parque, which she described as a place full of colours and diversity, was a unique experience for her. She also commented on the excellent welfare of the animals, and bid farewell by thanking and congratulating the entire Loro Parque’s team.

Loro Parque is celebrating the World Wildlife Day dedicated to Big Cats

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Loro Parque has dedicated this week to the celebration of World Wildlife Day, which is celebrated worldwide tomorrow, March 3rd. A UN initiative, this year the event focuses on drawing attention to the Big Cats with the aim of raising awareness about the deterioration of populations of these animals in the wild. Loro Parque, well known for its efforts in conservation of biodiversity, has joined this important event by focusing the attentions on the big felines represented in the park: Lions, Jaguars and White Tigers.

These animals act act as true ambassadors of the wildlife, representing their species and helping to raise awareness among the public about the challenges and dangers that these animals are facing in nature, mainly as a consequence of adverse human activities. Therefore, now more than ever, the role of a modern zoological garden is crucial to ensuring the conservation of these animals in the wild.

Angola Lions

Simba, Malika and Sarabi are the three Southwest African Lions that came to Loro Parque from different European zoos about a year ago. Here, they have an important role of acting as ambassadors of their peers in the wild, alerting the visitors about just how endangered this species is in the wild. In the last 50 years, the populations of lions in Africa have decreased from 100,000 to less than 25,000 animals. Due to land exploitation and deforestation, their natural habitat has been reduced to less than a quarter of its original size.

Jaguars

Negra and Gulliver are the Jaguars in Loro Parque. Just as lions, these magnificent animals are perfect representatives of their species in nature. “Panthera onca” is a Near Threatened species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The high rate of deforestation in Latin America is one of the biggest dangers that these animals face. The fragmentation of their habitats is a principal reason of isolation of these animals that makes them more vulnerable to human persecution.

White Tigers

Every day, Yangyu and Linmao take a walk together in a majestic fashion on their Tiger Island. Both of them play a fundamental role in raising the awareness about the situation of tigers in the wild. Due to their colour, White Tigers find themselves very vulnerable in the wild and have difficulties surviving in nature.