Heartbreaking footage shows killer whale 'trying to kill herself' during live show

By James Badcock

Animal rights activists have called for the release of an orca whale filmed deliberately beaching herself and lying motionless at the side of the pool for several minutes after a show at Tenerife's Loro Parque zoo.

Some spectators interpreted the video as an attempt by the whale, named Morgan, to commit suicide.

"Looks to me as if trying to take her own life, I don't blame her," wrote commenter Efrat Cybulkiewicz after viewing the clip showing Morgan on her belly outside of Loro Parque's display pool on Vimeo.

But managers at Loro Parque dismissed any notion that Morgan, whose captivity has become a cause célèbre after a court battle to prevent her becoming a performing whale, is depressed.

"There is nothing wrong with Morgan," Dr Javier Almunia, the director of environmental affairs at the Loro Parque Foundation, told The Telegraph.

"The orcas sometimes repeat the exercises the trainers are teaching them spontaneously in their free time. It is play. So you can see Morgan in this case sliding out of the pool, a move she does to get onto the stage or onto the scales when she is being weighed".

Dr Almunia described the idea that dolphins and whales commit suicide as "absurd" and "unknown to science".

US anti-captivity organisation The Dolphin Project said that Morgan Monitors volunteers had seen the orca lie outside of the pool for at least 10 minutes, behaviour the campaigners consider strange in an animal which can suffer internal damage if it spends too much time out of the water.

"While we cannot explain the reason for her behaviour, the juxtaposition of a previously-wild orca against the stark backdrop of the park's performance area is unsettling to say the least," The Dolphin Project's Helene Hesselager O'Barry wrote on the organisation's website.

Morgan was rescued in poor health, alone in shallow waters of the Wadden Sea off the Netherlands coast in 2010. When it was deemed impossible to return her to her family group in the wild, Dutch authorities agreed to her transfer to Loro Parque after a court battle against anti-captivity campaigners.

Loro Parque says Morgan has been diagnosed as partially deaf making her release inviable.

Dr Almunia said that the park has suffered frequent propaganda attacks from groups such as Peta and The Dolphin Project, who have images analysed by experts who never come into contact with the animals concerned.

Morgan, like the other five orcas at Loro Parque, is regularly given an extensive medical check-up by independent vets.

Morgan and Loro Parque's five other orcas are owned by SeaWorld, the international company which announced in March that it will end entertainment shows using these mammals.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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