A whale of a victory for Kiwi expert

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Morgan the orca is moving to a bigger tank, and then hopefully freedom. Photo / Supplied
Morgan the orca is moving to a bigger tank, and then hopefully freedom. Photo / Supplied

A young orca in the Netherlands may escape a life in a theme park because of the effort of a team of conservationists, including a well-known Kiwi marine mammal lover.

Northland whale expert Dr Ingrid Visser was part of a team this week that won a landmark court case, blocking moves to shift an orca named Morgan to a theme park in Spain's Canary Islands.

Visser, the face of orca conservation in this country, has been in the Netherlands for a fortnight, fighting with a coalition of orca experts and conservationists.

Morgan, rescued after being found alone and emaciated off the Dutch coast a year ago, has been held in a theme park in the town of Harderwijk, 50km east of Amsterdam.

Thought to be 3-4 years old, the female orca faced life in a bigger theme park. But a judge in the Amsterdam District Court blocked the move, and ordered the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Agriculture to investigate whether proposed scientific research in Spain was genuine, or merely a guise for exporting the orca.

The judge also ruled that Morgan must be moved to a bigger tank, where she would have more space and contact with other marine mammals.

Visser said it was "an incredible victory".

"It's unprecedented and shows how people can make a difference," she said.

Visser's report to the court said Morgan, 3.5m long and weighing 1100kg, was a prime candidate for rehabilitation and release.

However, Morgan's physical fitness was a concern, because the tank was too small and shallow for exercise. The orca was also starting to show signs of boredom.

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