A viral video showing a killer whale beaching herself after a show in Tenerife has sparked outrage among animal rights activists.
The video, which was posted by Ric O'Barry of the animal rights nonprofit group Dolphin Project, shows an orca named Morgan lying motionless beside a tank after a show in Loro Parque in Tenerife, Spain on May 16. The SeaWorld-owned killer whale was loaned from the company to Loro Parque.
What Really Happened?
On June 8, a longer video of the incident was posted, revealing that Morgan stayed out of the Tenerife pool for at least 9 minutes, even after a trainer signaled her to return to the water.
Morgan comes back to the pool, but after 42 seconds, she gets on the ledge again.
Witnesses that day reported that Morgan was being body-slammed by other orcas in the pool. These orcas were allegedly not evaluated for social compatibility before being placed in the tank together.
Some say Morgan was trying to commit suicide because she was "suffering a life in captivity."
However, SeaWorld refuted the allegations, saying that Morgan was exhibiting "natural behavior" and was protecting herself from other orcas.
Marine biologist Ingrid Visser from New Zealand's Orca Research Trust says it was highly unlikely that the animal jumped on the ledge to kill herself. It was possible that she was trying to escape other orcas that bullied her.
"She's coming out to avoid antagonistic behavior from other orcas," says Visser.
Former SeaWorld trainer and current orca-captivity activist Jeffrey Ventre says the actions of Morgan were typical "escape behavior."
Ventre, who is also the star of the anti-SeaWorld documentary Blackfish, says Morgan was inserted into the social group with five other whales but she does not get along with them.
"It looks like she jumped up on that stage area to get away from the other whales," says Ventre. "I think that that was a way for her to prevent from getting beat up further."
Meanwhile, the Dolphin Project said in a statement that although it cannot explain the reason for Morgan's behavior, the incorporation of a previously wild orca against the backdrop of the park's show area is unsettling.
Not Enough Evidence
Loro Parque has released its statement regarding the incident.
"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," the park says.
Loro Parque officials say that the orcas in the park are trained to leave the water when they want to. This behavior is useful especially when presenting the animals to the public, for inspecting the animals' blowholes, for performing corporal check-ups and for testing the animals' hearing abilities.
Morgan the orca was rescued in the Netherlands when she was young. Unfortunately, she cannot be released into the wild because she is deaf and unequipped to survive there.
Whales like Morgan occasionally beach themselves during hunting. However, if the marine animals remain on land for too long, their muscles and internal organs will be crushed by their own weight.
In April, Morgan was caught on video banging her head in the Loro Parque medical pool. The park claims the video was an example of manipulation and exaggeration of a "completely normal situation" where there is no actual problem for the animals.
At that time, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) disagreed.
"Morgan was captured from the sea six years ago and has been fighting hard against the trials of her captivity ever since," says Jared Goodman, PETA Foundation Director of Animal Law. "Her behavior shows that she is frantic to get back to the ocean home that she remembers and misses."
Watch the incident below.