Legal actions swirl around orcas Morgan and LolitaNovember 20th, 2011 by cdunagan
UPDATE: Dec. 13, 2012
Advocates for the release of Morgan have failed in their appeal to overturn the court ruling that transferred the young killer whale to Loro Parque, a Spanish amusement park. An appeals court ruled that the transfer was not unlawful. See today’s Dutch News
Barbara van Genne of Orca Coalition:
“Morgan is provisionally kept in Tenerife. Fortunately, in Spain animal protectors are attracting the fate of the orca and want to continue our fight there. We’ll continue to monitor Morgan and we will help where we can. And in the Netherlands we focus on the future, to ensure that stranded cetaceans will no longer fall in the hands of the commercial industry. The fact that the license for the care of these animals is no longer in the name of the amusement park Dolfinarium, but in the name of SOS Dolphin, is a good first step.”
UPDATE: Nov. 29
Morgan was loaded into a plane today and flown to her new home in Loro Parque, an amusement park on the Spanish island of Tenerife. The transport, which involved trucks on both ends of the trip, was uneventful.
Toby Sterling covered the story for the Associated Press.
UPDATE: Nov. 21
A Dutch court ruled this morning that Morgan may be sent to live at Loro Parque aquarium, ruling against advocates who had hoped to reunite the young orca with her family in Norway.
In a written finding, Judge M. de Rooij said chances of the female whale surviving in the wild were “too unsure,” according to a report by Toby Sterling of the Associated Press.
“Morgan can be transferred to Loro Parque for study and education to benefit the protection or maintenance of the species,” she was quoted as saying.
Reactions among supporters for her release are being compiled on the Free Morgan website.
Ingrid Visser, who helped lay the scientific groundwork for Morgan’s release, was quoted as saying the only hope for Morgan now now lie with the Spanish courts or the Norwegian government.
“Personally, I am devastated that after all these months of
fighting the good fight, to find that reason and science lost over
money and ulterior motives,” Visser wrote on the Free Morgan page. “Our long-term
goal of establishing laws to ever prevent an animal in need being
turned into an animal used for profit and personal gain will not
stop with Morgan’s incarceration.”
Separate legal actions continue to swirl around two famous killer whales, Morgan and Lolita.
The fate of Morgan, the orphan killer whale, lies with an
Amsterdam judge who is scheduled to decide tomorrow if the orca
should be moved permanently to an aquarium in Spain or be taken to
a coastal location where she might be reunited with her family.
Morgan, estimated to be 3 to 5 years old, was rescued in poor condition last year in the Wadden Sea and was nursed back to health in a marine park called Harderwijk Dolfinarium. Advocates for her release say Morgan is being commercially exploited in violation of international law regarding marine mammals.
As for Lolita, animal-rights groups in the United States filed a lawsuit last week regarding the killer whale captured in Puget Sound in 1970 and kept in the Miami Seaquarium almost her entire life.
The new lawsuit contends that Lolita should have not have been excluded as part of the “endangered” population when the federal government listed the Southern Residents under the Endangered Species Act in 2005. The Animal Legal Defense Fund and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals say if Lolita is included among the endangered orcas, it will lead to better treatment and possibly a reunion with her relatives.
Advocates for Morgan’s release say her caretakers at the marine park did a good job nursing her back to health, but the law requires that every effort be made to release marine mammals after rehabilitation is complete.
The dolphinarium filed a report saying that it is unlikely that Morgan would be able to survive in the wild and that finding her family was unlikely. Some experts who supported that initial report have since changed their minds, however.
Dutch Agriculture Minister Henk Bleker sided with dolphinarium officials, saying moving Morgan to a large tank at Loro Parque is best under the circumstances. That decision was unchanged after the judge ruled that the ministry must conduct its own evaluation, independent of the dolphinarium.
As time goes on, experts associated with the Free Morgan Foundation say they are getting close to identifying Morgan’s family group, based on recordings of vocalizations. In the latest report, researchers Heike Vester and Filipa I. P. Samarra said, “We do consider it likely that Morgan is either from group P or a group closely related to group P,” which are among the orcas that live in Norway. Check out the report, “Comparison of Morgan’s discrete stereotyped call repertoire with a recent catalogue of Norwegian killer whale calls” (PDF 5.9 mb).
Here are the Water Ways entries I’ve posted so far about Morgan:
Aug. 3, 2011: Supporters of Morgan’s release celebrate a victory
Feb. 2, 2011: Morgan, the orphan orca, gets her own lawyer
Jan. 14, 2011: Orphan orca gains attention of whale advocates
Lolita’s new lawsuit
The Animal Legal Defense Fund and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are asking that Lolita be included in the population listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
It isn’t clear what this would accomplish, but the groups make the point that the Endangered Species Act makes some exceptions for listing animals kept in captivity, but the focus is on using those animals for recovery of the listed population and does not apply to animals kept for commercial use, the groups argue. Quoting from the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle (PDF 92 kb):
“In its final listing decision (in 2005), NMFS provided no explanation for its decision to exclude all of the captive members of the Southern Resident killer whale population from the listing of that population as endangered.
“Because of its final listing decision, NMFS has excluded Lolita from the protections of the ESA, thereby allowing her to be kept in conditions that harm and harass her, and that would otherwise be prohibited under the “take” prohibition of the ESA, 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a), including, but not limited to, being kept in an inadequate tank, without companions of her own species or adequate protection from the sun.”
The group asks the court to set aside the portion of the listing decision that excluded Lolita from the endangered population, because it was “arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law.”
Some Water Ways entries related to Lolita:
Aug. 8, 2010: Thinking of Lolita, the captive killer whale
July 15, 2010: Lolita’s fate could become linked to Gulf disaster
Jan. 23, 2008:
Lolita, the orca, makes news again
Jan. 12, 2008: Celebrities and a ‘beautiful whale’
Tags: Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal welfare, Cetaceans, Endangered Species Act, Harderwijk Dolfinarium, killer whale, Lolita, Marine mammals, Miami Seaquarium, Morgan, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals