Thomas Cook’s Mistake

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Source: Letter – Thomas Cook’s Mistake

At the end of a working week and in full summer vacation time, precisely on Friday, July 27, at 16.06hrs, Loro Parque was taken by complete surprise when it received an e-mail from the CEO of the British tour operator Thomas Cook, announcing that due to a change in their animal welfare policy they will cease the ticket sale to Loro Parque.

Loro Parque was even more surprised when hardly 30 minutes later it started to receive the first inquiries from the British press asking for a statement on the decision of Thomas Cook to remove from sale any attractions featuring orcas under human care.

With this scenario it was clear to us that the British tour operator had announced its unilateral decision to the British press even before it was communicated to us; and this after 45 years of an honest and satisfactory business relationship for both parties.

This decision came to us completely unexpected and without any advanced warning.

A little less than a year ago Loro Parque, on request of Thomas Cook, has been audited by Global Spirit (a company linked to the Born Free Foundation) to determine the compliance in our facilities according to the ABTA animal welfare guidelines. The inspection confirmed the 100% compliance of these standards, which is not only the highest score, but guarantees that not only the orcas but all animals at Loro Parque are kept under the highest welfare standards and the strict regulations of ABTA are fulfilled.

Therefore, we ask ourselves: what value does the ABTA certificate with 100% compliance have, if within no time a tour operator decides to finalize a long term good business relationship? Will there be any other zoological institution in the future that will accept an audit of this kind? Are the ABTA guidelines for animal welfare of any use?

In its announcement Thomas Cook states that 90% of their customers take animal welfare serious. We are more than happy to hear that since the welfare of the animals is our outmost concern however, Loro Parque in the last 45 years of cooperation has not received a single complaint or any comment of concern regarding the welfare status of the animals in our care, neither from a Thomas Cook customer nor from the tour operator itself.

Which concerns are we talking about? Unless the customers of Thomas Cook, that have chosen to visit Loro Parque, and many of them repeatedly, are watching over the same standards that Loro Parque manifests in its daily work, offering the best welfare to all the animals in our care.

The same Friday, July 27, Loro Parque was obliged to publish the following statement:

First of all, Loro Parque wants to publicly express its gratitude to the more than a million visitors that have come to our park with Thomas Cook during the last 45 years. In all these years we have not received a single complaint from any of them regarding the welfare of our animals.

In April 2017 Loro Parque was inspected by Global Spirit (a company linked to the Born Free Foundation) following the request of Thomas Cook, in order to determine the compliance of our facilities and procedures with the ABTA animal welfare standards. The inspection obtained the highest score (100% of compliance), which guarantees that not only the orcas, but all the animals in Loro Parque have the best welfare conditions under the strict regulations of the Association of British Tour Agents. The decision of Thomas Cook not only diminishes the value of this inspection, but also is against the animal welfare regulations of ABTA, which are the most rigorous of the world.

Thomas Cook sustains that its decision is based on scientific evidence, but fails to provide any. They also argue that 90% of their clients are concerned about animal welfare, but it does not mean that they have expressed concerns about the orcas housed at Loro Parque.

In our company not only 90% but 100% of our staff is concerned about animal welfare, and we proudly work every day to provide every single animal under our care with the outmost love and respect. That’s the reason why we have obtained the maximum qualifications, not only by Global Spirit, but also by the American Humane, TÜV, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, the Iberian Association of Zoos and Aquaria, the European Association for Aquatic Mammals or the Alliance for Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. This is a clear proof of excellence in animal care, and excellence is the main reason why Loro Parque has been also honoured with the Trip Advisor’s Travellers Choice Award as the best zoo in the world. There is no doubt that many of the visitors that voted to give this award to Loro Parque were Thomas Cook clients.

In fact Loro Parque is the highest decorated zoo in the world having received every single Gold Medal on regional and national level in Spain as well as the highest distinction that any company in Spain can receive: the Prince Felipe Award of Entrepreneurial Excellence.

Furthermore, Loro Parque founded in 1994 led Loro Parque Fundación which has invested until today more than 19 million US dollars in over 150 conservation projects worldwide. As a result nine parrot species have been saved from extinction and many others have improved their population in the wild.

The decision of Thomas Cook is clearly led by anti-zoo organizations leaded by a minority of activists not really concerned about the animals, but just aimed in destroying the zoos and their conservation, research and educational activities. But this will not change our determination to continue working for the welfare of every single animal in this world, and for the conservation of the biodiversity in a planet threatened by the sixth extinction as has been scientifically proven. Already now with 700 million visitors in zoos worldwide it is clear that a zoo visit is a highly demanded activity which in light of the destruction of our nature and environment will become an absolute “must” in the future.

Fortunately, Loro Parque is this year welcoming more visitors than ever, and even without the partnership of Thomas Cook we will continue offering all our visitors a unique opportunity to get to know the wonders of wildlife and become part of our mission: to protect and preserve the animals and their natural habitats for future generations.

On Tuesday, July 31, Loro Parque sent a letter to the British tour operator confirming that we are willing to end the contractual agreement with Thomas Cook by August 1, 2018 if they wish. On Thursday, August 2, Thomas Cook answered us that they do not wish to end the contractual agreement before the end of June 2019.

It is important to note that the British tour operator Thomas Cook took this decision, despite the fact that Loro Parque has all documents on animal welfare in order and up-to-date, on its own account and individually, while this kind of decision can be very harmful for all ecological institutions worldwide.

This is why we are making this case public and transparent. We want to share with you the multiple letters of support that we have received since Thomas Cook published its announcement and we ask you to read the scientific argument prepared by Dr. Javier Almunia, Director of Loro Parque Fundación, which explains in detail why our orcas or any orca under human care cannot be released.

Recently we have also learned that the multinational financial company Fosun from China holds shares of the British tour operator Thomas Cook. Amongst the many activities of this company, they are also active in the tourism sector and own leisure facilities where the interaction with cetaceans is no problem at all. Furthermore, it has been confirmed that the animals in these facilities originate from the cruel drive hunts in Taiji. These hunts have been strongly rejected by the whole zoological community worldwide since many years and no zoological institution in Europe has ever accepted an animal from Taiji.

Finally we would like to state that Loro Parque receives this year more customers than ever and with or without the collaboration of Thomas Cook, we will continue to offer our visitors an opportunity to get to know the wonders of wildlife and make them part of our mission: protect and conserve the animals and their natural habitats for our future generations.

Orcas under human care

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Are sanctuaries and cetacean releases viable alternatives?

As we move ahead through the 21st century and the disconnection between humans and nature increases, the already important educational animal presentations in modern zoological facilities become more and more necessary. Every animal species housed in a zoo becomes an ambassador not only for its wild counterparts, but also for many others that live in endangered habitats and ecosystems.

From more than 46 years ago Loro Parque has become a home for numerous animals in need: chimpanzees, penguins, gorillas, tigers, even orcas. More than a decade ago, SeaWorld needed space to house its growing group of killer whales and Loro Parque agreed to build the world’s most modern facility to provide new space for four of them. In 2006 Skyla, Kohana, Tekoa and Keto (second and third generation orcas bred under human care) arrived to the brand new facilities built at Loro Parque. The group welcomed a new member in 2010, when Adan was born. And in 2011 the Dutch Government requested Loro Parque to house Morgan, an orca found emaciated in the Wadden Sea the previous year, and which was declared non-releasable by the Dutch authorities. At that point the only alternative for Morgan was euthanasia, as the experts and the Supreme Court, after eight previous similar resolutions, agreed that her release would mean a slow but sure death.

Nowadays the six orcas housed at Loro Parque are in perfect shape; their health is closely monitored by a team of veterinarians and their daily needs attended to by a group of zoo keepers with extensive experience in taking care of this species. The social structure of the group is stable and the veterinary records prove that in the last three years they have not presented any significant pathology. Their welfare is continuously monitored by unaffiliated experts from different universities and independent international consultants visit the premises regularly to give advice on various husbandry aspects.

Although there are no concerns about the health and welfare of this group of orcas, some groups of activists like PETA (People for the Ethic Treatment of Animals), Born Free Foundation or Free Morgan Foundation, actively lobby different administrations to release these animals to the sea, or to relocate them to a marine sanctuary. As we will explain further on, the liberation of these animals to the sea is completely impossible and their transfer to a sanctuary will not improve their welfare but rather the contrary. But lately the blackmailing and the pressure from the activists is not limited anymore to the administrations or zoological institutions, they are also threatening tour operators and other companies that work in the touristic sector.

It suits to ask two questions:

Who is saying that the orcas in zoological institutions are not happy?

The answer is only given by anti-zoo organizations. Not any researcher from an independent institution (university) with academic knowledge and accredited experience about animal welfare corroborates these affirmations. Some scientists that have supported the anti-zoo organizations are not experts in animal welfare but their experience is based only on general biology or neuroanatomy.

On what are their affirmations, that the orcas are suffering, based?

Their affirmations are not based on measurements of hormones, rigorous investigations about behaviour or careful scientific studies that evaluate the personality or the activity of the animals. The affirmations of the anti-zoo organizations are based on prejudices and speculations never proven.

In contrast, Loro Parque has independent studies from experts in animal welfare of the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria which, by analyzing all hormonal parameters, their activity and behaviour, conclude that the welfare of the animals is very high.

This leaves very clear that the self-proclaimed organizations for animal rights claim that they are motivated by the lack of welfare of the zoo-housed orcas, despite the fact that none of them has the academic background in animal welfare. Actually, the vast majority of their personnel don’t even have the minimum formation in biology or zoology. The truth is that the so called “animal rights” organizations have turned into big multinational businesses that receive million of dollars in donations from good-hearted people who are truly concerned about animals. Due to this lack of knowledge and experience the effects of these campaigns against zoos that have cetaceans in their care have a disastrous outcome for the orcas. SeaWorld’s decision to stop the breeding program of their orcas in 2016 has resulted in reactivating the hunt of orcas in Russia in order to fulfill the demand of Chinese parks.

At this point it is very important to analyze the demands that the anti-zoo groups make to the administrations and the tour operators: to liberate the orcas to the sea or to transfer them to marine sanctuaries.

1.- Can the orcas be returned to the sea?

The answer is very clear: No. And they know it because we’re talking about a group of hybrid animals (a mixture between orcas from the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans) and no administration from any country will allow that they are liberated into the sea since the risk of genetic contamination of the wild orca populations will be far too high.

And if that was not enough, these animals, born in second, third and fourth generation under human care, have never learned to hunt their prey. The only known experience of liberating an orca that was born wild and kept 20 years under human care (Keiko) demonstrated that it is not possible for them to recuperate the ability to hunt for their own food; and this, even though Keiko had not been born under human care. The adaptation of animals that have lived several generations under human care would be even more difficult.

Also the health authorities would not allow a reintroduction into the sea because of the possibility to liberate at the same time bacteria, fungi, and parasites which have been treated with medicines and could cause severe epidemics in wild populations of dolphins and whales.

The best evidence of the impossibility to re-adapt zoo-housed killer whales to the sea is the reintroduction of Keiko (the protagonist of the film “Free Willy”). After more than three years of preparation and 20 million dollars spent, the only result was the sacrifice of a beautiful animal that was incapable of hunting for itself. But it seems that neither PETA nor Born Free Foundation or Free Morgan Foundation have learned anything from the death of Keiko and keep on presenting the liberation as an ideal solution.

2.- Would the orcas welfare status improve if they are transferred to a sanctuary?

In this case the answer also is no. It is very naive to think that orcas, that have lived various generations in zoological facilities, will automatically swim longer distances for the mere fact of having more space. The reality is that the orcas would have to be kept exactly the same way as in zoological institutions, with trainers that motivate them to swim and jump in order to release their energy, a team of veterinarians that can obtain blood, urine, stool and blowhole samples (which can only be achieved with training) to guarantee their health.

For the same reasons of genetic contamination and the possible epidemic infections earlier mentioned, no government will allow the construction of a sanctuary in its waters since this would put the wild populations of dolphins and whales in high danger. The possibility of an accidental or deliberate escape of the animals from a sanctuary is very high, the same as the transmission of illness and infections through the water that will be exchanged with seawater without purification. There is a famous precedent of an intentional liberation of two dolphins from a sanctuary, of which one died and the other one ended up with severe damage since neither of them was able to hunt fish to feed themselves. The author of this liberation, Rick O’Barry, was sentenced for animal abuse breaking the Marine Mammal Protection Act of the USA.

In case of oil spills or other naval accidents or simply by the general plastic pollution, the animals would be in great risk of contamination.

In case of storms the animals would be at risk of drowning if the nets of the enclosure broke or simply that big waves in the bay would push them to land. Therefore, the sanctuary will need to have an emergency system which in practice means to build a pool with its filtration system, water control, etc.

The dietary necessities of the orcas would be the same as in the zoological facility. That means that they have to be offered 8 to 9 feedings which represent more than 300kg of highest quality fish daily. It is not possible to find this amount of live fish in a small bay and if live fish gets thrown in, it would escape through the holes of the nets. Therefore, the feeding in a sanctuary would also have to be based on frozen fish.

A group of 6 of these big animals produces approximately 54,000kg of excrement a year; this means that very strong tidal current would be needed to keep the bay clean. But the tides could have a negative impact on the animals as well as the nets and moorings used to close the bay.

To keep an orca costs approximately 600,000 US$ a year which means that a sanctuary needs to generate a minimum of 3.6 million dollars yearly for at least 40 to 50 years to come. Taking into consideration the difficulties that dog and cat shelters have nowadays to maintain their very inferior costs, it might very well be possible that these costs, in a few years, will have to be paid by the taxes of all citizens.

All these arguments leave it very clear that neither the reintroduction into the sea nor the transfer into a sanctuary are viable options for orcas born under human care like the ones at Loro Parque. But what about Morgan? She has not been born under human care. This is true and, as has been explained, Morgan arrived to Loro Parque because she was rescued,which saved her life, and because of a petition from the Dutch Authorities so that they didn’t have to euthanize her. This means that thanks to Loro Parque her life was saved twice.

With the arrival of Morgan to our installations, we were very aware of three things:

  • Our interference was necessary in order to save the life of an animal.
  • Our maintenance cost would increase by US$ 600,000 per year.
  • Morgan would not bring one customer more to Loro Parque.

But as on many previous occasions, Loro Parque has highlighted the fact that there was an animal in need. This is why we have received Morgan and welcomed her not only with professionalism but most of all with tremendous love and respect towards an animal with a big history of suffering.

However, and unexpected by us, the arrival of Morgan also unchained the criticisms of the activists and their false arguments, as for example, that her family awaits her in the sea (although her pod had never been located) when the most likely was that her family had left her behind because of a sensory deficiency. This hearing deficit, which was not diagnosed until several months after of her arrival to our facilities, might have been the reason why, applying the maxim of “only the strong survive”, her family separated from her, an animal that cannot help in the survival of the group.

When Morgan’s trainers started to suspect that she was deaf, Loro Parque contacted the highest experts in cetacean acoustics, Dr. Houser, Dr. Luke and Dr. Finneran of the National Marine Mammal Foundation, IMARES and the US Navy respectively. They demonstrated the complete lack of hearing of Morgan and published their results in a scientific journal.

Therefore, the liberation of Morgan into the sea would be her death penalty because, besides that she has never learned how to hunt (like the other orcas in the group), her hearing deficit would not allow her to find prey since it implies that her sonar does not function. Also her communication problems would not allow her to coordinate herself with other orcas in order to hunt and orcas like Morgan are not able to feed themselves.

In conclusion, if PETA or Born Free Foundation would achieve their objective, to take the orcas from Loro Parque to a sanctuary or to liberate, they would only provoke their sure death.

EAAM Statement on Thomas Cook Announcement

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Source: http://www.loroparque.com/press/en/component/k2/item/download/5_ccaba4f0bd37d6db06186dbaee9f7e34

EAAM, European Association for Aquatic mammals, is deeply concern about the announcement of the Thomas Cook Travel Company that, from the summer 2019, will stop selling trips to Zoological parks that keep killer whales. The Zoological Facilities affected are SeaWorld, in Florida, and Loro Parque in Tenerife.

The chief executive of the Holiday Giant, Peter Fankhauser said “This was not a decision we took lightly” acknowledging that both parks had met standards and had made improvements to how animals were kept, however he added, “… more than 90% of our customers were concerned about animal welfare… and when so many of our customers are so clear in their view, I could not allow our business to ignore them”.

However the Travel Company lacked to explain correctly to their customers that Animal Welfare Standards in these Parks , like for the other Zoological Parks members of numerous Associations like EAAM (European Association for Aquatic mammals, EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria), WAZA (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums), AMMPA (Alliance of Marine Mammals Parks and Aquariums) provide outstanding animal welfare to their marine mammals certified by a strict Accreditation process. Besisdes some of these Zoological Parks received also the ‘Humane Conservation’ certification of Animal Welfare as a result of independent worldwide Zoological expert’s inspection, Loro Parque is one of these Zoological facilities.

Thomas Cook Company also failed to evaluate the large impact in terms of in situ projects and direct conservation support that these Zoological parks give every year to the Nature conservation and wild animals protection.

EAAM with all its members provides a huge support in terms of money, professionals, know-how and experience at service of the Nature, only Loro Parque contributed until now with more than $19 million to over 150 conservation projects globally.

In addition, a fundamental positive impact on Nature presevation and conservation is possible only by educating and sensitizing people, performing Conservation Education activities and engaging experiences that increase awareness and empowerment in millions of adults and child that visit Zoos and Marine Parks.

Millions of UK and of worldwide guests had visited these parks and they have seen first-hand the incredible care provided to all animals hosted and learned about how it is possible to protect and save species in the wild.

The WAZA Chief Executive Officer Doug Cress highlight “Thomas Cook focused on orcas but overlooked the ongoing efforts to protect marine species around the world. Those programs that rescue pilot whales or save sea turtles are funded by tourist revenue. Thomas Cook sold its clients only a fraction of the true story, and could undermine essential conservation work as a result.”

Joining to the WAZA Chief Executive Officer message, the EAAM President Elect Renato Lenzi, invite the Thomas Cook Agency to carefully and responsible re-consider its decision and let their consumers take park in the effort to protect our natural heritage continuing to include marine parks in its travel packages.

ANCOR Institute for Biology supports Loro Parque

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Original source: http://www.loroparque.com/press/en/component/k2/item/download/3_24484be71eb5f73f06c06afcbf8abc1a

Respected Ladies and Gentlemen;

Learning about the plans of your company makes me very sad! Thus, I strongly ask you to immediately take care and action that the Loro Parque remains “The number One Zoo” in Europe and also worldwide! Let me explain:

I have been fighting for the wellbeing of animals since decades: i.e. as the scientific director of the International Laboratory of Dolphin Behaviour Research in Eilat, Israel; also have I been working as an independent expert appointed by the German Government for developing new rules for an optimal housing of marine mammals, and finally since 2005, I am observing the housing of orcas in the Loro Parque, and supervising crucial research on the behaviour of these whales.

With all this as a reference I feel glad to testify about Wolfgang Kiessling and his crew/team to provide best conditions and care for all their whales and dolphins. I am proud to stick out my neck for that, because a number of lies have been reported in the past.

So, dear Ladies and Gentlemen, please rethink the matter and confine your plans to zoos only with a pour housing of their animals.

Best Regards, (Dietmar Todt)

Support for Humane Certified™ Institutions following Travel Operator Decision

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Source: https://www.americanhumane.org/blog/support-for-humane-certified-institutions-following-travel-operator-decision-2/

American Humane, which has worked to protect animals for 141 years and is the largest certifier of animal welfare in the world, stands by Loro Parque and our other Humane Certified™ institutions as they were audited against the independent, gold star standard of animal welfare, backed by science, top animal experts, veterinarians and ethicists.

We can attest to the excellent welfare afforded to the animals at Loro Parque, including the orcas, which are healthy and very well-treated. Fewer than one-half of one percent of zoos, aquariums, and conservation centers in the world have achieved our rigorous certification, which thoroughly verifies the many dimensions of good welfare.

The decision by Thomas Cook is being driven by an animal activist philosophy that seeks to remove animals from our lives, and is not based on science, actual welfare considerations, the good care of the animals we encountered, or the invaluable need for humane conservation and public education that is critical to the survival of so many species with whom we share the Earth.

By taking this action, Thomas Cook has decided to take an unprecedented giant step away from their legacy of providing sound and unbiased guidance to travelers who seek good, safe, and ethical experiences, which will have the unfortunate effect of pushing more remarkable and endangered species closer to the edge of extinction.

Those seeking thrilling and ethical experiences with animals can rest assured they can find and enjoy them at Loro Parque.

EAZA Statement on Recent Thomas Cook Announcement

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Source: EAZA-Statement-on-Recent-Thomas-Cook-Announcement

The travel company, Thomas Cook, recently announced that as of summer 2019 they will no longer sell trips to facilities that care for orcas (Orcinus orca). The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) Accredited Member, Loro Parque, Spain is one such facility that this news affects. Loro Parque has been successfully caring for orcas for over 12 years and has a wealth of experience meeting their welfare and management requirements. Loro Parque passed the rigorous, holistic, EAZA Accreditation that covers Standards on Animal Accommodation and Care, Conservation, Education and Research and, in addition, they recently achieved a 100% rating in a focused animal welfare audit as part of requirements laid down by Thomas Cook. Conservation research programs involving orca at the park have also contributed to the development of prototype devices that use vocalizations to aid open sea orca protection and welfare.

The announcement by Thomas Cook cites animal welfare as a driver for their decision however, they do not appear to have considered the proven high animal welfare record that Loro Parque has. It is also difficult to understand the motives of Thomas Cook whereby they require a facility to undergo a welfare audit and then disregard the results. EAZA encourages Thomas Cook to reconsider their decision, specifically as it relates to EAZA Accredited facilities like Loro Parque who, in addition, have passed the Thomas Cook welfare audit requirements.

EAZA’s Accreditation process and Standards are publicly available as part of our commitment to transparency and professionalism.

WAZA Statement on Recent Thomas Cook Decision

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Source: http://www.waza.org/en/site/news-events/news/waza-statement-on-recent-thomas-cook-decision

WAZA statement regarding Thomas Cook’s decision to ban trips to Loro Parque and SeaWorld

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) believes the Thomas Cook travel agency failed to consider the significant global conservation impact of SeaWorld and Loro Parque, as well as their continued dedication to high levels of welfare for animals in their care, when it announced this week that it would no longer include the marine parks in its travel packages.

Thomas Cook officials said in a statement that the company will no longer include institutions that keep orcas in captivity in their tours.

SeaWorld, based in the United States, has rescued over 31,000 animals in the past five decades through its SeaWorld Cares programme, including pilot whales, dolphins and manatees, among others. The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has also provided more than $14 million to animal and habitat conservation projects around the world.

Spain-based Loro Parque, meanwhile, recently launched a €2 million, four-year programme in collaboration with the government of the Canary Islands to study the effects of climate change in the sea, focusing on species such as algae, angel sharks and sea turtles. Loro Parque has also contributed more than $19 million to over 150 conservation projects globally, and research programs at Loro Parque have contributed to the development of prototype bioacoustics and automatic detection of orca vocalizations devices in aid of open sea killer whale protection.

“Thomas Cook focused on orcas but overlooked the ongoing efforts to protect marine species around the world,” said WAZA Chief Executive Officer Doug Cress. “Those programmes that rescue pilot whales or save sea turtles are funded by tourist revenue. Thomas Cook sold its clients only a fraction of the true story, and could undermine essential conservation work as a result.”

Both SeaWorld and Loro Parque are members of WAZA as well as members of national associations, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), respectively. Both parks have passed strict welfare audits by Global Spirit Animals in Tourism Limited and have obtained 100% of the minimum standards required by the Association of British Travel Agents’ (ABTA) Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism policy.

Loro Parque will also host the 77th WAZA Annual Conference in 2022.

WAZA has committed its members to promoting high levels of animal welfare and issues such as marine litter, sustainable development and the elimination of single-use plastic, and SeaWorld and Loro Parque will remain pivotal players in all those efforts.

“The education programmes at SeaWorld and Loro Parque, and the potential to change behaviour on key issues that instil compassion for animals and protect the oceans, reefs and sea life are what make them such unique institutions,” Cress said. “WAZA urges Thomas Cook to re-consider this decision and let their consumers take part in this effort to protect our natural heritage. It’s not too late.”

Loro Parque’s Statement on Thomas Cook’s Policy

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In response to Thomas Cook’s new policy on sales of attractions featuring orcas Loro Parque communicates the following:

First of all, Loro Parque wants to publicly express its gratitude to the more than a million visitors that have come to our park with Thomas Cook during the last 45 years. In all these years we have not received a single complaint from any of them regarding the welfare of our animals.

In April 2017 Loro Parque was inspected by Global Spirit (a company linked to the Born Free Foundation) following the request of Thomas Cook, in order to determine the compliance of our facilities and procedures with the ABTA animal welfare standards. The inspection obtained the highest score (100% of compliance), which guarantees that not only the orcas, but all the animals in Loro Parque have the best welfare conditions under the strict regulations of the Association of British Tour Agents. The decision of Thomas Cook not only diminishes the value of this inspection, but also is against the animal welfare regulations of ABTA, which are the most rigorous of the world.

Thomas Cook sustains that its decision is based on scientific evidence, but fails to provide any. They also argue that 90% of their clients are concerned about animal welfare, but it does not mean that they have expressed concerns about the orcas housed at Loro Parque.

In our company not only 90% but 100% of our staff is concerned about animal welfare, and we proudly work every day to provide every single animal under our care with the outmost love and respect. That’s the reason why we have obtained the maximum qualifications, not only by Global Spirit, but also by the American Humane, TÜV, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, the Iberian Association of Zoos and Aquaria, the European Association for Aquatic Mammals or the Alliance for Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. This is a clear proof of excellence in animal care, and excellence is the main reason why Loro Parque has been also honoured with the Trip Advisor’s Travellers Choice Award as the best zoo in the world. There is no doubt that many of the visitors that voted to give this award to Loro Parque were Thomas Cook clients.

In fact Loro Parque is the highest decorated zoo in the world having received every single Gold Medal on regional and national level in Spain as well as the highest distinction that any company in Spain can receive: the Prince Felipe Award of Entrepreneurial Excellence.

Furthermore, Loro Parque founded in 1994 led Loro Parque Fundación which has invested until today more than 19 million US dollars in over 150 conservation projects worldwide. As a result nine parrot species have been saved from extinction and many others have improved their population in the wild.

The decision of Thomas Cook is clearly led by anti-zoo organizations leaded by a minority of activists not really concerned about the animals, but just aimed in destroying the zoos and their conservation, research and educational activities. But this will not change our determination to continue working for the welfare of every single animal in this world, and for the conservation of the biodiversity in a planet threatened by the sixth extinction as has been scientifically proven. Already now with 700 million visitors in zoos worldwide it is clear that a zoo visit is a highly demanded activity which in light of the destruction of our nature and environment will become an absolute “must” in the future.

Fortunately, Loro Parque is this year welcoming more visitors than ever, and even without the partnership of Thomas Cook we will continue offering all our visitors a unique opportunity to get to know the wonders of wildlife and become part of our mission: to protect and preserve the animals and their natural habitats for future generations.

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

In response to Free Morgan Foundation

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On December the 4th, the Free Morgan Foundation published a press release accusing Loro Parque of breaking the law “Orca Morgan Pregnant? Loro Parque in Violation!”. This is the latest smear campaign build by this organization trying to criticise Loro Parque and its activities, with the sole objective of release Morgan back to the wild, something that was refused more than three years ago by the Dutch Supreme Court.

Free Morgan Foundation tries to mislead the public opinion saying that the CITES permit was issued under the strict condition that has to be kept for research, suggesting that breeding was not allowed. But the truth is that the research use was the exemption to the Habitats Directive in order to keep Morgan used by the Dutch Authorities. This exception does not impede the breeding, and the CITES permit of Morgan does not limit breeding either. Free Morgan Foundation has been trying to convince the CITES Authorities about this bizarre interpretation of the CITES regulations sending letters to the Spanish, Dutch and International Autorities that enforce the Convention. And they have not received any support from them, on the contrary, the Spanish CITES Authorities answered that “ … 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 education purposes.”. But Free Morgan Foundation never published this response in their website, nevertheless, you can find all the letters sent to the different CITES MA.

Free Morgan Foundation also accuses Loro Parque of “been busy trying to breed Morgan” despite “the ban on breeding and her young age which can be dangerous to both mother and calf.”. Morgan has been ovulating regularly during the last four years, hence it should be really easy to get her pregnant, as there is no difficuties in breeding killer whales. Nevertheless, Loro Parque haven’t tried to breed her, this pregnancy is totally spontaneous and confirms her integration in the group and the display of natural sexual behaviours. It is clear that the ban on breeding only exists in the imagination of Free Morgan Foundation, and about the age of Morgan, during the successive court cases (2010-2014) they were always arguing that she was older than 2 years at the moment of rescue. That means, in the opinion of Free Morgan Foundation, she will be giving birth to her calf when at the age of 11-12 years, which is the common time for Type 1 Eastern North Atlantic Killer Whales.

Finally, Free Morgan Foundation accuses Loro Parque of breeding orcas for “Financial profit” which is totally nonsense. Under the EU regulations all the cetacean species are considered non-commercial, hence they cannot be bought or sold, but only exchanged between authorized zoological facilities, making impossible any financial profit of breeding orcas.

In conclusion, all the arguments in Free Morgan Foundation press release are absolutely false, and they are aware of its falsehood. Their only goal is to damage the reputation of Loro Parque with defamatory statements, as they are also fully aware that Morgan is unreleasable as it was ruled by the Dutch Supreme Court in its final verdict. This campaign, and the new court case that they are promoting in Holland (an appeal to the two consecutive denegations by the CITES Dutch authorities of their request to invalidate Morgan’s CITES permit) are simply a smoke screen, it will be probably very profitable in terms of donations, but totally useless from the legal perspective.