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.


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.

Loro Parque – 45 years of progress

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Author: Rosemary Low

When Wolfgang Kiessling bought a small hotel on the island of Tenerife no one could have foreseen that this action would put the then small village of Punta Brava on the map worldwide. The fledgling parrot park the he opened there in 1972 was the forerunner of what today has been voted the world’s number one zoo by Trip Advisor. It has received countless other accolades.

When I was there in October I met an English couple who told me: “We don’t like zoos. But the Loro Parque is amazing. We loved it!”

The success of the park is due not only to its immaculate condition and exceptionally beautiful botanical garden setting, but to its constant upgrading of exhibits and the inauguration of new ones. However, it is what happens behind the scenes that makes Loro Parque a world leader. Its 4,000 parrots make it the most important reserve of parrot species anywhere on the planet, with 319 species and sub-species. But, in my view, even more important is Loro Parque Fundación.

Founded in 1994 to support conservation, it has done so in a manner unrivalled by any other organization. Up to 2016 it had committed more than US$17 million to conservation, mainly to parrot projects but also to cetaceans (dolphin and whales). At the 2017 board meeting held in October, it again allocated just over one million dollars to conservation for the coming year, under the able chairmanship of LPF’s Director Christoph Kiessling.

Loro Parque is famous for hosting an international parrot conference every four years, since the first in 1986. The conferences are a Mecca for everyone with a serious interest in parrots and always a meeting ground of countless friends.

Mr Kiessling once jokingly suggested to me of the event, “This is all your fault!”, since it was I who mooted the idea of a convention on our first meeting in 1984.

I have many memories of these important meetings but there is one that stands out about all others. In 1994 I was moved almost to tears by the presentation of Dr Niels Krabbe. He spoke about the yellow-eared parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis) – then called a conure. He showed a video of what was the last know population. Only 60 birds were know to survive. So at the beginning of 1996 Loro Parque Fundación (LPF) started to support the work of Dr Krabbe in Ecuador. He was trying to protect the land on which the last remnant population was known.

I feared that this would be the next parrot to become extinct. Sadly, the Ecuator population disappeared in 1998, possibly trapped, but the species had been rediscovered in Colombia in 1997. The areas it inhabited were so remote that the tiny population could have died out, with only the local people noticing their disappearance.

The story of the yellow-eared parrot is without doubt the most remarkable in the whole history of parrot conservation and ranks near the top for bird conservation worldwide.

Today its population numbers more than four thousand individuals and its range has increased enormously.

The reason I dwell on this species is because there is no doubt that without the funding from LPF, which has reached more than US$1.5 million, and the personnel of ProAves who work in the field, there is no doubt that by now the charismatic yellow-eared parrot would be extinct. It would be difficult to over-state the importance of the work of the foundation. No other organization worldwide supports parrot conservation with even a fraction of the funding provided by LPF. Its projects are implemented by the staff of well chosen NGOs, such ProAves in Colombia and Aquasis and other in Brazil.

In the Philippines, the Katala Foundation, directed by the dynamic duo of Indira and Peter Widman, is largely founded by LPF. It has almost certainly staved off extinction for the red-vented cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia) with its multi-faceted programme of field work and education. Incidentally, the biggest genetic captive reserve of this cockatoo is held by the Loro Parque Fundación. Eight young have been reared so far this year.

Other examples of successful projects are too numerous to mention here. But the foundation’s work does not end in the field.

Scientific and veterinary research is also important. Veterinarian and vet students from the best universities in many countries have worked as interns in the clinic at Loro Parque, learning so much that assists the health and welfare of parrots and enabling them to share the knowledge gained.

Viral diseases are a major problem in parrot worldwide. Remarkable strides have been made by the veterinarians at Loro Parque in reducing or eradicating viral diseases in the collection. As an example, polyoma virus has been reduced from 7% in the collection in 2015, down to 0.1% today.

All birds bred in the park and in the Foundation’s breeding center are tested for viral diseases before they are sold. It should be noted that the income from such sales goes to the foundation.

At the board meeting the curator Marcia Weinzettl reported on the 2017 breeding season to date. Outstanding success included 23 blue-throated macaws (Ara glaucogularis), 27 Mount Apo lorikeets (Trichoglossus johnstoniae) and eight rarely bred Pesquet’s parrots (Psittrichas fulgidus).

Marcia’s aim, since she assumed the position of curator last year, is to annually increase the percentage of parent-reared young. In 2015 46% were parent-reared; this year (up to October) the total was 57% of the 779 chicks ringed. Other interesting statistics are that 190 pairs were made up last year and 59.7% of the parrots in the collection are adults.

Loro Parque is strongly represented in the media. In 2017, up to October, 186 articles were published about its work; personnel gave 33 radio interviews and twelve on television and spoke at 32 conferences. The Foundation has 35,800 followers on Facebook.

Thirty-six thousand copies of its newspaper Cyanopsitta were published, many of which were distributed in local newspapers, including colouring pages to attract the attention of children.

Loro Parque Statatement

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With regard to SeaWorld’s press release on November 7th, 2017 Loro Parque states the following:

As consequence of different criteria regarding the handling of the orcas at Loro Parque, both companies have agreed that these animals will remain in their present installations. All activities related to their wellbeing will be compliant to the European regulations, as has been done since their arrival at Loro Parque in 2006.

Loro Parque, with its team of professionals, will maintain its firm commitment in its work to ensure the maximum wellbeing of the animals, always fulfilling the applicable standards of the European Union.

Response to the publication in The Journal of Oral Biology “Tooth damage in captive orcas”

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These past couple of days much has been said about the paper published in The Journal of Oral Biology “Tooth damage in captive orcas”, written, among others, by John Jett (a former SeaWorld trainer and now a biologist), Ingrid Visser (an activist for the liberation of orcas and a researcher) and Jeffrey Ventre (a former SeaWorld trainer dismissed for misconduct and now a physiotherapist). At first glance, it could appear as a scientific work developed with the intention of getting to know better the different problems affecting orcas. However, once you take a deeper read, it turns out to be a simple statistic analysis of the pictures that Ingrid Visser and other activists have obtained of the orcas at both SeaWorld and Loro Parque. The most important conclusion of that study is that orcas in human care present dental damage, which needless to say is too obvious to write a whole scientific article about it.

We could wonder ‘How is this article going to improve the knowledge on the species and its conservation?’ The answer is quite simple: in no way. The dental deterioration of 50 orcas kept under human care is absolutely irrelevant for the conservation of the species. It would have been a lot more interesting to research, for instance, how chemical contamination affects wild orcas (like the investigation supported by Loro Parque in collaboration with Aarhus University to evaluate how toxic elements affect orcas immune system), specially since there is increasingly more evidence material that a contamination is a problem for the reproduction of wild orcas. Any other research on the consequences of noise in the sea, the availability of food or the interference of fisheries would have been extremely helpful for the species. But that does not seem to be important enough for Free Morgan Foundation, an organization with different goals: getting rid of zoos that keep orcas in their care, using any excuse they can find to archieve these goals.

If one reads closely the article “Tooth damage in captive orcas”, one will see that it does not demonstrate that orcas suffer any well-being issues because of their dental damage, it just speculates about such a possibility. It speculates about pain and discomfort, but it does not provide evidence, simply because it is not possible to verify any of these presumptions just by taking pictures 40 meters away from the orcas. What is this article useful for, then? Well, it is simply an excuse so that some of their authors can then make speculative statements that are not based on research. Thus, John Jett declares in Voice of the Orcas (specialized webpage against SeaWorld created after Blackfish by some former trainers): “We have found that more than 65% show moderate to severe dental damage on their lower jaws, mostly because they bite the concrete and steel surfaces of the tanks”. This is a huge speculation. If that behaviour was as frequent as he confirms, why have they not documented it photographically? How can they determine just by looking at a simple picture what the real cause of this dental damage is? On his part, Jeffrey Ventre assesses: “Dental damage does not only causes mortality and morbidity in captive orcas, but frequently leads to chronicle therapies with antibiotics which endanger orcas’ immune system”. This conclusion cannot be found in a scientific paper either, mainly because it is just a speculation with no veterinarian base at all.

It is not true that dental damage causes mortality or morbidity, and authors do not provide any scientific evidence of it. How many orcas have died because of dental damage at zoos? With an adequate dental hygiene there are no dental infections, so it is false that there are animals with chronic treatments (Dr. Ventre should know that treatments are never chronic and that this adjective is only used in a reference to diseases, so maybe he should revise his professional knowledge). Furthermore, the affirmation of those treatments affecting negatively their immune system is false. It is worrying that someone like him does not know the therapeutic and side effects of a medicine as ordinary as antibiotics. These kind of assessments, made without evaluating clinically any of the animals, and without revising their clinical history, are simply self-interested speculations. And what about Dr. Ingrid Visser? Just as the previous ones, those cannot be found in the scientific article nor in any of its conclusions. For Dr. Visser: “Those wounds must be extremely painful”

How can she assess something like that without having examined an animal, contradicting the opinion of marine mammals’ expert veterinarians with more than 40 years of experience? Well, simply because her only goal is demonstrating that zoos that maintain orcas in their care mistreat animals and cause them pain, no matter what science says or what the real truth is. All animals go through daily inspections and any inflammation, pain or (rarely) infection is treated by expert veterinarians. That is why, in zoos, these processes do not cause them pain, nor are of any importance for the animals. However, if those animals were to be freed or confined to sea pens where their control and treatment would be more difficult, and would consequently cause pain, uneasiness and infections.

One more time Free Morgan Foundation has used their confusion and misinformation strategy to attack zoos who keep orcas in their care. Unfortunately for them, we will not keep quiet and we will keep exposing their lies and their manipulation attempts.

Ingrid Visser and Rosina Liske

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Ingrid Visser and Rosina Lisker, who constantly lie about orca Morgan and her husbandry, visited Loro Parque during the last three days.

Visser is a marine biologist, but also radical activist profiting of the commercial use of wild orca populations and spreading misinformation about Morgan and her husbandry. She aims to start her own so-called “sanctuary” for whales, although she has no experience in proper husbandry of whales. The orca baby Bob died, after her “rescue” and improper husbandry in a swimming pool.

Lisker is Certified Paralegal (i.e. office manager in a law firm) and also has no professional experience in having orcas in her care. She’s a founding member Dolphinaria-Free Europe coalition. This radical animal rights coalation spreads lies about dolphinariums in general as we proved.

Both are part of the board of directors of the Free Morgan Foundation, which collects money and is very intransparent in how this money is used. Both influenced the misinforming movie “Inside The Tanks” – read the full analysis here. Free Morgan Foundation also cooperates with Born Free Foundation and other radical animal rights organizations.

Heather Rally worked as a veterinarian, but is now part of the Captive Animal Law Enforcement Department of the PETA Foundation, while she’s, same as Visser, part of a project aiming to found their own SeaWorld and calling it “sanctuary”. She was part of the PETA-Team, who visited Loro Parque in 2015 and used populism to accuse Loro Parque with animal cruelty and failed, because their misinformation wasn’t true. For example they said a mucus running out of the orcas eyes, would be not normal, while it is normal for every whale same in the wild an human care.

 Like thousands of other visitors, they had the possibility to enjoy their time at Orca Ocean. They saw healthy animals in a socially intact group. Morgan and all the other whales are doing great. All of the animals, as usual, participate in the show voluntarily and are in the care of renowned experts. The American Humane Association awarded Loro Parque, as first European zoo, with its certificate of 100% compliance. Other independent experts and organizations checked Loro Parque’s husbandry and assured that the orcas, like all other animals, are maintained using highest standards of animal welfare and scientific management.

The animal right industry, Visser, Lisker and Rally benefit respectively being part of, makes money with credulous animal lovers and betrays them with lies, misinformation and expensive marketing campaigns. While 100% of a donation to Loro Parque Fundación is used for conservation the members of this industry only use a small amout or even nothing of the donations for animals and their conservation. True experts will always support the husbandry of orcas at Loro Parque, because it benefits the animals which are in Loro Parque’s care, but also their wild counterparts in nature, while lies of untrustworthy experts don’t benefit a whale, but their own purse.

We are sure Visser, Lisker and Rally will lie again, but all true orca friends should know: every orca at Loro Parque is doing great and both only could use populist arguments to try to convince people of the opposite.

Open letter of the President of Loro Parque

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Dear Madam, Dear Sir,

Since the arrival of the female orca Morgan at Loro Parque, which was found dying on the shores of the Wadden Sea in the Netherlands, we have been the object of criticism and defamation campaigns by some activist groups. These minority organizations have no knowledge of Morgan’s actual situation and I do not think that they have an honest interest in her welfare. They only use Morgan as a battering ram to defame and discredit Loro Parque.

We recently received a communication from Ms. Tanja Breining of PETA Germany informing us that their signature campaign to release Morgan (started in June 2015) had reached 20,000 supporters. PETA Germany has been campaigning for years to release Morgan, even though they know that she has a hearing deficit, that her family group was never found and that she probably never learned the necessary skills to hunt or will be able to use her sonar to detect any prey. It is evident that Morgan cannot be released because if she returns to the sea, this would only lead to a slow agonizing death. And meanwhile PETA just makes campaigns; the reality is that Morgan (which arrived at Loro Parque at the request of the Dutch authorities to avoid its euthanasia) has found a true home under our care.

This situation has led us to undertake some actions and to request the support of our visitors by collecting signatures. In only two months (from June 30 to September 1, 2017) more than 75,000 visitors have given us their support, confirming with their signature that: “the animals of Loro Parque have a decent home, are well-off and are ambassadors of their wild species.” Each of these signatures represents an invaluable support for the work of Loro Parque and for Morgan to remain with her adoptive family receiving the care that she needs.

Along with this letter we send you the notarized document which certifies the existence and authenticity of the 75,000 signatures. It is important to point out that the collection campaign has been carried out in a short period of time and that, if it had continued, we would undoubtedly exceed 300,000 signatures each year.

The modern zoos, such as Loro Parque, are the only embassies for exotic animals and they have the essential task to transmit to the world population its beauty and how important it is to conserve nature. In these difficult times for the animals, it is important that we change our sensitivity and find a way to co-exist in harmony with the rest of the living beings on our planet.


Wolfgang Kiessling

Premeditated and unpremeditated consequences of the new french ruling about cetacean maintenance in zoos

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Cetaceans kept in accordance with French zoo legislation and best professional practice

  • Zoological parks in France are licensed to operate by the government following inspections that ensure compliance with the EU Zoos Directive 1999/22 and specific requirements imposed by French law under the decree of 25 March 2004. The parks also must comply with additional detailed requirements under a 1981 Decree on the keeping of cetaceans.
  • The three parks in France currently keeping and exhibiting bottlenose dolphins — Planete Sauvage, Parc Asterix, and Marineland Antibes (which also keeps orcas) — are duly licensed by French authorities. They also all are accredited members of the European Association for Aquatic Mammals (EAAM) complying with best professional practices under Standards & Guidelines for bottlenose dolphins.

Dolphins in EAAM/EAZA Zoos are a Thriving, Self-Sustaining Population

  • Operating under the EAAM Standards & Guidelines and through mandatory cooperation in a species management program operated by the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA), EAAM parks have achieved a self-sustaining population (for more than the next 100 years) of bottlenose dolphins in Europe. The health and well-being of the dolphins in human care is proven by the fact that they live on average far longer in accredited zoological parks than in the wild and are reproducing. Indeed, more than 70% of the dolphins in EAAM parks today were born in human care. There has been no capture of dolphins from the wild for more than twenty years for exhibition in France. Because of their relative longevity in zoos, however, animals that were taken from the wild many, many years ago are still alive and well. Of the 28 dolphins currently kept in France, 22 were born in zoos. Of the 97 dolphins born in European zoos frm 2005-2015, 15 were born in France.

Parks support modernizing the 1981 Decree on keeping of cetaceans

  • Representatives of French zoological parks agree that the 1981 decree is outdated and therefore participated in a working group in good faith for more than two years to facilitate a positive revision of the decree based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence, technical information, best professional practices, and hands-on experience with successfully keeping cetaceans in human care from the animal health and welfare perspectives.
  • The stated purpose of the working group established to examine the 1981 Decree was to provide requirements to ensure a high level of keeping and care of cetaceans to meet their biological and health needs and permit the animals to express their natural behaviours.
  • Much progress was made, however, certain proposals were not based on the needs of the animals or science and may be technically impossible to achieve.

Decree abandons focus on animal welfare and aims to close all cetacean facilities in France

  • On the eve of the second round of presidential elections, Mme. Segolene Royal, then Minister of the Environment, Energy and Oceans, issued a press communication in which she announced that she had signed a new decree. This appears to have been done without any assessment of impacts on animal welfare or socio-economic impacts of the proposals that had been under consideration. The Decree was published on 6 May 2017 and took effect the day thereafter.
  • Clearly evidencing the political nature of her intervention, the press communication states that the Decree was put in place with the assistance of multiple named animal rights and campaign organisations. The Minister gratuitously inserted in the opening article the need to prevent “suffering” of the animals — when observable evidence shows that the animals are not suffering but are thriving. She inserted a ban on the keeping of cetaceans and introduced a total ban on reproduction in direct contradiction to the original purpose of ensuring optimal natural behaviours.

Requirements are Extreme, not Evidence-based, and Impossible within transition deadlines

  • The adopted Decree requires significant changes to facilities that are not based on welfare needs. The level of change required would necessitate the relocation of the animals out of their familiar and government-approved habitats during construction. As no other zoo could likely keep all the animals in their current social groups, significant stress and risk is entailed.
  • The size of pools must not only be significantly increased in volume and depth but also allow for underwater viewing. Even if permits could be obtained — which is not a simple matter -the massive changes required could not be achieved in the short 3 years provided.
  • The Decree also prohibits the use of chlorine, which is used in small amounts together with ozone in zoological parks to eliminate bacteria and ensure high water quality for the animals. Eliminating chlorine entirely would require significant changes to water filtration systems and would certainly not be possible within the six month period allowed for compliance. Moreover, a backup system — in all likelihood involving chlorine — would almost certainly be required to ensure the safety of the animals.
  • Furthermore, the new Decree removes any incentive to make the kinds of investments that it would require or even voluntary enhancement of educational or conservation programs related to these important ocean ambassadors because it includes a new and sweeping prohibition on the keeping and reproduction of cetaceans.

Prohibition on keeping cetaceans forces closure, not investment in the interest of animals

  • The far-reaching prohibition on cetaceans in France is created by banning the keeping of cetaceans other than those present in the parks as of the effective date of the decree and then prohibiting reproduction even of the existing animals.
  • The prohibition means that from 7 May 2017 no stranded cetacean can be rescued and rehabilitated in France.
  • The Decree also dooms the dolphins and orcas currently in French parks because it does not allow cetaceans from zoological parks outside of France to be brought into France even if needed to ensure appropriate social groupings. This means that the French zoological parks are compelled to manage the existing animals until their deaths in dwindling, static and, over time, potentially dysfunctional social groups.
  • Equally, without two-way cooperation, French facilities cannot expect other zoos to keep  cetaceans currently housed in France to allow the construction required by the decree.

Decree Blocks EU cooperation in the interest of the animals and impacts EU population

  • The prohibitions not only dooms the grandfathered cetaceans in France but negatively impact the entire population of cetaceans in human care in European zoological parks because the animals in France are effectively removed from the gene pool of bottlenose dolphins managed at the European level for the benefit of the European population.

Closure of cetacean exhibits detrimental to education, tourism and local economies

  • While neither bottlenose dolphins nor orcas are endangered species, they serve as powerful ambassadors and focal points for public education about the state of the world’s oceans and seas and human impacts on them and their inhabitants. Without these icons of the oceans, parks will not be able to carry on with their conservation and education programs for the benefit of the French public and the many tourists that visit the parks.
  • More than 1000 people are employed directly or indirectly as a result of the keeping of cetaceans in French parks. These are full time professional jobs as well as part time jobs during the high season employing local youth. Visitors to the parks also contribute to the local economy as they patronize nearby hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

In short, the combination of new requirements with impossible timeframes paired with the prohibition on keeping and breeding cetaceans threatens the ability of the French parks to maintain their marine mammal programs, including the keeping of dolphins – precisely the political goal of the former Minister and her non-governmental partners.

The Decree should be invalidated with the result that the 1981 Decree would remain in force. A serious, evidence based review should be undertaken to identify the aspects of the 1981 Decree which need to be updated. Any necessary revisions should be made in accordance with the animals’ interests and scientific evidence to ensure that the keeping of cetaceans in France is in accordance with recognized and proven best professional practices and allows for continuing cooperation with zoological parks across Europe.

Letter of invitation to Sir Roger Moore to meet Morgan and the other orcas at Loro Parque

statement Sin comentarios »

Dear Sir Roger Moore,

Loro Parque recognises your distinguished acting career, but believes that you have been seriously misinformed by the extreme animal-rights organisation, PETA. PETA appears to have enlisted your support to accuse Loro Parque of mistreating the orcas in its facilities, but nothing could be further from the truth. For you to verify the situation directly, Loro Parque invites you to visit the park and orca facilities.

The incident which appears to have triggered your involvement in this issue is the recent video of the orca Morgan lying out of the water at the edge of the pool, which animal-right activists alerted to the media with the completely false message that her behaviour was abnormal, and that it signalled such a high level of stress in the animal that she was supposedly trying to commit suicide. This allegation is so absurd that even the well-known activist for Morgan´s liberation, Dr. Ingrid Visser, otherwise quite a critic of Loro Parque, has rejected the suicide attempt explanation in National Geographic magazine.

Loro Parque wishes to inform you that the behaviour seen in the video is entirely normal, both in the wild, and under human care. You can see examples of it in the wild here:

Under human care, orcas voluntarily slide out of the water and spend varying amounts of time in a completely relaxed state before deciding voluntarily to return to the water. The trainers do not need to induce them to leave or enter the water. This is exactly what Morgan is doing in the video, and she is not at all stressed, she has not been chased out of the water by the other orcas, and she certainly is not trying to commit suicide, an act uniquely confined to our own species, Homo sapiens.

Like all the animals in Loro Parque, the orcas have our total respect and affection, and receive superlative care, making sure of their optimum health status and overall well-being. We want you to know that if an orca does not engage in any particular activity, there is no way that it can be compelled to do so. The truth is the exact opposite: the orcas in Loro Parque engage in the activities voluntarily and find them stimulating.

It is a serious oversight by PETA not to have brought to your attention that Morgan has a serious hearing deficiency, something that the trainers in Loro Parque detected shortly after her arrival, and subsequently confirmed in tests conducted by three independent experts.

Healthy auditory function is a critical requirement for orcas to survive in the wild, because its impairment means that hunting and social cohesion of the individual are not possible. It can be speculated that this was the reason why Morgan was found isolated and in a moribund condition on the coast of The Netherlands. All experts in orcas will tell you that her release into the sea would result in her certain death. And it would not be a pleasant death.

From the overwhelmingly positive comments that Loro Parque receives from its at least one million visitors annually, we are totally sure that none of them would agree that they lack compassion for having visited the park and seen the orcas. In spite of the clear evidence to the contrary, PETA continues to promote its extremist agenda that Morgan and the other orcas in Loro Parque are suffering.

In August 2015, PETA denounced Loro Parque to the Spanish authorities for alleged maltreatment of the orcas. This resulted in an exhaustive inspection of Loro Parque by the Spanish national Nature Protection Service (Servicio de Protección de la Naturaleza-SEPRONA). The resulting report not only clears Loro Parque of the mistreatment of any animal, but goes further to praise Loro Parque for its highest standards of care.

Such evidence does not interest PETA, neither that Loro Parque is voted, by people from all walks of life, the first zoological park in Europe and second in the world under the ‘Traveller’s Choice Awards’ of TripAdvisor, and neither that Loro Parque receives top marks under the ‘Animal Welfare Guidelines’ of the major tour operator associations.

PETA also shows no interest in the important conservation work to help the protection of orcas and other cetaceans in the wild to which Loro Parque contributes through the Loro Parque Foundation. This conservation work has provided the key information necessary for the Spanish Government to decide on marine protected areas for the threatened population of orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar. It has also contributed to knowledge about the levels of persistent chemicals accumulating in orcas and other cetaceans in European waters.

The Loro Parque Foundation contributes US$1 million annually for conservation of wild animals and their habitats. To make a useful comparison, Loro Parque suggests that you try to find out what useful work PETA has done for the conservation of orcas and other cetaceans in the oceans. We are sure you will find it difficult to discover anything useful. Furthermore, perhaps you are unaware that PETA is accused of not being the caring, compassionate organisation for animals that it pretends to be:

Loro Parque hopes that this letter has provided you with objective information in comparison to the distortions that you might have previously received, and repeats its invitation for you to visit the park.

Yours sincerely,

Loro Parque

Statement – Morgan on the stage

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With regard to the publication of Dolphin Project on the video platform Vimeo, Loro Parque declares the following:

The video represents just a few minutes of images of Morgan, right after the end of a regular presentation in OrcaOcean. It is absolutely illogical and absurd to assume that the length and the quality of such video would be sufficient to make a conclusion and declaration of such nature.

In order to make any correct conclusion, it is a requirement that professional veterinarians and renowned experts in this field work intensely for an extended period of time conducting observations, diagnostic tests, scans etc. Having stated that, it is absolutely clear, that this declaration represents nothing more than a campaign launched by the anti-zoo activists that do not really pursue the well-being of the animals.

A voluntary stranding is a natural behavior of orcas living in the wild. For example, in the region of Valdes, Argentina, there is a group of orcas that has learned to hunt the cubs of sea lions in the shallow waters near the shore.

The orcas at Loro Parque are trained to leave the water on their own accord. This behavior is used for manifold purposes, for example, for presenting the animals to the public, for conducting corporal check-ups, for inspecting their blowholes, as well as for testing hearing abilities of the orcas.

On numerous occasions, when the trainer gives free time to the animals so that they can enjoy the interacting that is part of their social behavior, the animals might repeat spontaneously the jumps they have learned, or leave the water or even slide across the stage. This is a totally natural behavior which is often accompanied by dynamic play. To speculate that this represents a sign of stress demonstrates utter ignorance about the natural behavior of this species.

Loro Parque would like to underline the importance of relying on scientifically proven data to make statements about animal well-being and not to rely on opinions of organizations that evidently only pursue their anti-zoo agenda.