Visit Orca Morgan 2016
Introduction: Recent accusations
Recently video's have appeared again on the internet where people make uneducated asumptions about killer whale Morgan at Loro Parque Tenerife. People claim she would display stereotypical behaviour and even that she would have tried to commit suicide. In July I travelled to Loro Parque for a couple of days to watch the situation with my own eyes. Training I got the oportunity to watch Morgan and the other killer whales at Loro Parque during the whole day both behind the scenes and in the public areas. Among these observations were training sessions, medical training, shows and resting moments. The grouping of the animals changed during all these moments. Morgan spent her time both with the entire group as with a few animals. She also stayed a short period on her own in the medical pool without any problems or notable odd behaviour. There were even private sessions arranged for me!
Morgan is still being trained in special ways with light signals instead of the classic whistle method because of her hearing problems. For this training method a target pole with a lamp is used and recently lamps have been set up all over the entire area of Orca Ocean. Both above and underwater. The other killer whales are already understanding this method too.
At the different training sessions of Morgan during the beaching behaviour I could see Morgan very well from every side. Her skin was intact without a trace of recent injuries or rakes and felt smooth on the area that showed scars pointing out it was not a recent or severe injury. Her chin looked very well. Because I was able to see her underwater too I could observe the same findings very well there too. Her teeth have indeed worn down more, but I saw no visible injury to them.
The enrichment that is offered to the killer whales is very diverse. This includes training methods, objects, food enrichment (for example gelatine, ice cubes, or toys filled with fish) and stimulation using their own envoirment (for example grouping of the animals, watersprays or the placement of objects). All the animals showed play behaviour during our visit with the offered enrichment. All animals socialized among eachother and I saw Morgan socializing with every other animal, though especially with Adán and Keto. According to the trainers she has the closest bond with Adán.
Morgan still participates during shows that are held at Orca Ocean. How many shows she does, when she participates and what behaviours she displays varies per day just like for the other killer whales. At my visits she participated in either one or two shows a day. The trainers observe before the shows which animals are suited to participate. In this they take in account the mood of the animal and the social hierarchy among the group. After one of the shows I participated in a private training session with Morgan and all the other whales. This showed that the animals can all be together and there is not just one grouping in which they are kept. (Though trainers said Morgan is quite hormonal these days making it difficult to have her in a show or particular grouping at times).
Above: Morgan getting a private rubdown session
During these visits I did not observe any stereotypical behaviour with Morgan or the other killer whales. Morgan reacted actively to her trainers and was social to the other animals. There was nothing odd or out of place to be noted on her physical appearance or her behaviour during training sessions, shows or other moments of the day. I was very positively suprised as we all know this group hasn't been known as the most stable group of killer whales out there. There was literally no real negative thing to point out about Morgan or the other killer whales, other than that her teeth indeed wear out fast.
This portrays very well that short footage appearing on the internet are just fragments of reality. The assumptions made by people after watching this footage often give a very twisted view of the actual situation. The warm welcome and transparancy of Loro Parque and it's entire team only confirmed this for me.