A young killer whale has been prepared for her transfer to a Spanish amusement park after conservationists lost a legal battle to have her released into the open sea.
The 1,400kg female orca named Morgan was lifted by a crane onto a truck while resting in a hammock that restrains her movement and protects her fins - watch the video attached to this article to see the move.
The city of Harderwijk, in the Netherlands, issued an emergency ban blocking "Free Morgan" demonstrations during the transfer to Loro Parque. However, a coalition of conservationists who sought to have her released said they had no plans to interfere in the operation.
"We would never do anything that could endanger Morgan," said coalition spokeswoman Nancy Slot.
Morgan, who is estimated to be about three-years-old, weighed only 400kg when she was rescued in shallow waters off the Dutch North Sea coast in June 2010.
The Dutch government permit that originally approved her capture said the dolphinarium could hold her and restore her health so she could be released.
But after the park assembled a team of experts for advice on what to do next, it decided she had little chance of survival in the wild unless her natal pod, or family, could be identified. Analysis of her vocal patterns showed only that she was from Norwegian waters.
Opposing experts for the "Free Morgan" group said the dolphinarium was guided by financial interests, rather than concern for the animal's well-being.
A female capable of breeding and introducing new genes into the pool of captive orcas is worth millions of dollars.
The Harderwijk Dolphinarium, which put Morgan on display after her rescue, has not disclosed financial details of her shipment to Loro Parque.
Loro Parque, owned by a German businessman, received its four orcas on loan from SeaWorld. Though Morgan cannot be transferred to the United States, any offspring she may have can be.
International treaties prohibit the trade of killer whales - which are actually classified as oceangoing dolphins - without difficult-to-obtain exemption permits. Fewer than 50 orcas are held in captivity worldwide and the bulk of them are owned by SeaWorld, a subsidiary of US private equity giant The Blackstone Group LP.
The idea of reintroducing captive whales into the wild garnered widespread public sympathy after the 1993 film Free Willy.
However, real life releases have a mixed record at best. Keiko, the animal that starred in Free Willy was released in Icelandic waters after 20 years in captivity. He died, apparently of pneumonia, after surviving two months on his own and swimming about 1,400km to Norway.
Though the "Free Morgan Coalition" says it will continue to seek Morgan's release, they concede her transfer to Spain is a major blow to their hopes.
Experts agree that the less time the animals are exposed to humans the better their chances of survival in the wild.
3 News / APTN
source: newshub archive