Dear anonymous senders,
I recently received an anonymous letter, in which I’m asked to free Morgan, one of the orcas under our care. This is something quite odd as Morgan’s case has been thoroughly argued over the last few years and was totally clarified by the Supreme Court of the Netherlands more than a year ago. This High Court and the European Commission, responding to a Parliamentary question, both ratified that Morgan had no chance of survival in the wild and therefore could not be released. That is why I wonder how there are still people that think Morgan’s release is an option.
I am sure you are a person that has animal’s well-being at heart, the same as everyone that works at Loro Parque, and maybe you sent the postcard based on the information provided by third parties or an organization. Allow me to clarify that the information used in these propaganda campaigns has the sole purpose of harming zoos and is based on false facts. I will explain to you what really happened:
In 2010 a dying orca was found off the Dutch coasts and was named Morgan. At the time of being rescued by the Harderwijk dolphinarium she was merely skin and bones and about to die from hunger and dehydration. She only weighed 430 kilos, less than half of what an orca her size normally weighs. After being rescued, recovered and consulting with killer whale experts, the Agricultural Ministry of the Netherland’s Government decided Morgan would not survive if she was returned to the sea. At that point they considered that if they weren’t able to find somewhere where she could live with other members of her species, they would have to euthanize her.
The first time I heard about Morgan was when the Dutch authorities contacted me asking if we could take her in with our orcas to prevent her death. I honestly didn’t think that taking her in would raise the existing discredit and criticism campaigns, although having known this; I would have done it anyway. My intention was to help Morgan, something I have always done regardless of which animal it is that needs help.
Some small organizations didn’t take into account these facts and started their campaigns saying, for example, that Morgan should go back with her family, appealing to the emotions of animal lovers. However, they never explained that Morgan’s family was never found in spite of the efforts by the most renowned killer whale experts of the North Atlantic, and that the only group that could have some kind of relation to Morgan was only seen once in 2005. They also fail to mention that Morgan has a severe acoustic deficiency, proven by three independent scientists: Dr. Dorian Houser (National Marine Mammal Foundation), Dr. Klaus Lucke (Curtin University) and Dr. James Finnernan (NAVY). This acoustic deficiency would make it very difficult for her to find food and communicate with other orcas; therefore returning her to the sea would most likely mean sending her to an early grave.
On the 23th of April 2014, three years after Morgan was rescued, the highest court of the Netherlands confirmed the legality of transferring Morgan to Loro Parque. This was the fifth time that the Dutch Justice confirmed the validity of the CITES permit after the continuous appeals and attacks from organizations that only wanted to return her to the sea because of their personal hatred towards zoos, but not because they had Morgan’s best interest at heart. After more than two years under our care Morgan is a lovely animal that grows day by day, now weighing more than two tonnes. I can sincerely say that she is happy with her new family. If you want to read more details about this story, visit Morgan’s website.
Loro Parque fulfils the stipulated zoo regulations and has done so even before the law was enacted in Spain (2003) and before the European Directive regarding zoos came into effect in 1999. No laws are necessary when you are convinced that zoos should work towards nature preservation and maybe that is why we were the first zoo in the world to have obtained the Biosphere Park certificate: Animal Embassy awarded by the Responsible Tourism Institute, linked to UNESCO. Other awards that recognize environmental quality are EMAS, ISO 14000 and ISO 9000 certificates, also given to Loro Parque. Through Loro Parque Fundación we additionally develop diverse investigation and conservation projects in situ throughout the five continents. In the last 20 years we have invested more than 15.000.000 dollars in over 100 programmes for cetacean and parrot conservation. Due to our efforts it was possible to down list the number of threatened parrot species; one group from Colombia and another from Brazil are no longer critically endangered but endangered, a fact that constitutes one of our environmental victories.
Loro Parque is also an active member of the most relevant professional zoo associations: AIZA, EAZA, WAZA, EAAM and AMMPA; and in addition, through its Foundation, a member of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). This means we are a modern zoo, exemplary and committed to the conservation and wellbeing of the animals. Not in vain we have been given by the largest travel website worldwide, Trip Advisor, the prize for Nº1 Zoo in Europe and Nº3 in the world, a distinction that reveals the true opinion of the majority of travellers who have visited Loro Parque.
The orcas at Loro Parque are second and third generation killer whales born and bred under human care and therefore can’t be released into the sea. If someone says that it is possible, first they should prove it. When the wild orca Keiko was released into the sea it cost more than 20.000.000 dollars and the outcome was fatal. Keiko only lasted 524 days alive in the sea. After spending that amount of money on an animal that only survived a bit longer than 17 months of his approximately 26 years of life, Keiko’s release was sold as an enormous success. From my point of view it is purely and simply an animal sacrifice.
Morgan was probably abandoned by her family once. When she was found she was disoriented and too young to learn hunting techniques, therefore releasing Morgan in the sea, without her family and also deaf, would be in my perspective, sentencing her to death.
Gathering 15.000.000 dollars since 1994 has been a great effort for Loro Parque, but we have been pleased to do so as it has meant the possibility of saving two species of parrots from extinction that were about to disappear and more than 9 species that are recovering due to this effort.
Now I would like to ask you something. Have you ever asked yourself why there are people who promote large campaigns in favour of species that are not at risk like dolphins or orcas and that are charismatic and popular due to films, television series or zoo presentations? Surprisingly these people don’t promote campaigns to create awareness about the more than 300.000 small cetaceans like dolphins, porpoises or beaked whales that die each year because of plastic that ends up in the sea, contamination, overfishing or due to the fact that they get caught in fishing nets. These actions are carried out by modern zoos like Loro Parque that are committed to the preservation of the environment and work to raise visitor’s awareness about these and other ocean problems. We additionally finance investigations, on one hand to develop systems to avoid unintentional cetacean fishing and on the other hand to evaluate the contamination effects on animal’s health or the overfishing that threatens the endangered orcas of the Strait of Gibraltar.
Our concerns regarding the conservation of cetaceans began in the mid 80’s due to the hunting of sperm whales in Madeira. The battle ended with the declaration of a marine sanctuary around the archipelago. That was the starting point to include all the Macaronesian waters in a sanctuary for the protection of cetaceans, as there are 33 different species of whales and dolphins that need protection.
During the following decade we continued to worry about this topic and therefore decided to finance multiple cetacean investigation and conservation projects in the Canaries in collaboration with rescue centres and prestigious universities, assuming the total amount of costs.
Currently we don’t only work to protect cetaceans but also other marine species that also need our help, for example the marine turtles that live around Canary Islands. Each year more than 200 wounded turtles end up in Fauna Rescue Centres of the Archipelago. Thanks’ to the work and collaboration with other entities, almost 90% of them can heal and be released back in the sea.
Meanwhile, what have these organizations that say care about the wellbeing of the cetaceans done? Instead of fighting against the true problems, they spend time and effort trying to discredit zoos that house dolphins or orcas with lies. We put all our efforts in making sure our animals have the best possible conditions under our care, so please, ask the person that requested you to send this postcard: what have you ever done to protect the wild population of cetaceans?
On my behalf as President of Loro Parque, due to the concern and displays of affection generated by the Morgan case, including this campaign, I wish that this effort would be dedicated to work in favour of the conservation of species that are truly threatened and that need everyone’s commitment.