Loro Parque awards ‘Premio Gorila 2016’ to Versele-Laga

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Last Friday, October 20th, the presidential office of the Canarian Government hosted Loro Parque´s award ceremony ‘Premio Gorila 2016’, during which the company Versele-Laga was awarded with this prestigious recognition. This Belgian corporation is an internationally known manufacturer of high-quality food and care brands for animals and pets. This annual award ceremony took place in its 14th edition and aims at recognizing exceptional performance, environmental responsibility and active implementation of the strategies towards the sustainable use of resources.

This event was hosted in the main Auditorium of the Presidential Office and it was attended by almost three hundred guests. Among those who attended the ceremony were regional, insular and local authorities, as well as civilian, military, consular officials as well as business representatives.

The President of Loro Parque, Wolfgang Kiessling, stressed the importance of the Versele-Laga’s labour, as the company sponsors Loro Parque Fundación in their efforts dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity. Versele-Laga’s principles match exactly with the philosophy of Loro Parque and that is something that is highly important in a world where human population is increasing disproportionately to the amount of the natural resources. As a consequence, the natural habitats of the many wild animals are quickly deteriorating leading to the disappearance of many of these species.

There is more than one reason why Versele-Laga has been awarded with ‘Premio Gorila 2016’, whose representative, Mr. Lode Versele assessed to be ‘really proud to be one of the main sponsors of Loro Parque Fundación’ and told the attendees how ‘Loro Parque’s vision about the conservation of nature was aligned to that of their company. Versele-Laga, which has been collaborating with Loro Parque Fundación for 15 years, considers the labour of scientists and of those who love and dedicate their efforts to nature as key for its preservation. Among many other initiatives, the company has also been supporting foundation financially as a way of contributing to their cause.


About Versele-Laga:

The company started with Prudent Versele, a visionary entrepreneur, who started to produce and sell cattle nutrition products on a small scale in 1932. In 1937, less than five years later, in order to meet the demand, he had to build his first cattle feed-producing plant in Deinze, Belgium.

The following years were successful; the factory expanded further and even became one of the most modern and best performing ones of its time. The passionate employees who worked for Versele-Laga soon managed to convince the Versele family to develop mixes for racing pigeons.

They were soon followed by products for other sporting animals and pets such as birds, farm animals, horses and dogs. Since the 70s animals increasingly became part of the family and more and more birds, rodents, dogs and cats were taken into people’s homes.

Versele-Laga follows all the market developments very closely and accompany them with new investments. Thus, they can provide increasingly better answers to the needs of the pets and performance animals.

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