Ingrid Visser's orca freedom fight gets US boost

By Peter de Graaf

Northland orca expert Ingrid Visser is continuing her court battle to free a young orca from captivity, thanks to a hefty donation from an American TV producer who made much of his money from The Simpsons.

Dr Visser has been fighting to have Morgan, a young female orca rescued off the Dutch coast in 2010, returned to the wild for the past two years, first from a Dutch dolphin centre and now from a theme park in Spain's Canary Islands.

After an early victory in which the Dutch courts blocked Morgan's transfer to Spain, the legal tide has been running against Dr Visser and her fellow campaigners. In what had been seen as a last chance in the Amsterdam District Court on December 13 last year, a trio of judges rejected their arguments that the orca's transfer was illegal.

However, following what Dr Visser called "exceptionally generous support" from US producer Sam Simon, a formal appeal is being lodged with the Court of State in The Hague.

The appeal was being filed by the Orca Coalition with the Free Morgan Foundation helping with documentation and submissions. A date for the hearing had yet to be set.

Dr Visser said the Amsterdam judges had overlooked aspects of the law and made errors such as regarding Loro Parque, where Morgan is being held, as an educational zoo when it was in fact an amusement park.

Mr Simon started his career as a newspaper cartoonist, then produced TV shows before helping to develop the TV series The Simpsons. He soon fell out with creator Matt Groening but his payout is understood to earn him millions of dollars each year.

He has previously helped the anti-whaling organisation Sea Shepherd buy a new ship to take on Japanese whaling ships in the Southern Ocean and funded a facility for rescuing and retraining stray dogs.

Mr Simon said the appeal was probably the orca's last chance to be returned to the wild.

''Quite simply, Morgan, an intelligent, highly social animal that used to swim 100km a day in the wild, has been illegally abducted by the captivity industry and is now forced to perform idiotic tricks in a bathtub,'' he said.

Dr Visser said she had personally seen Morgan attacked by other orca at Loro Parque. The orca was covered in bite marks and had lost the top third of some teeth from chewing on the concrete walls of her tank, she said. The park denied any problems.

- Northern Advocate

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