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Court proceedings began on the 1st of November for Morgan the killer whale in an Amsterdam court.

Morgan, is a female Orca who was rescued in the Wadden Sea off the north-east coast of the Netherlands in June 2010. When they found her she was alone and extremely malnourished. The rescue team took her to Harderwijk Dolphinarium near Amsterdam.

After Morgan eventually recovered. But instead of being returned to the sea where she belonged she was kept at the Harderwijk Dolphinarium. Eventually a few months later the park asserted the orca wouldn't fare well at her natural habitat (the ocean) and would be better off working performing tricks in a pool. So in November 2011 she was shipped to Loro Parque, an amusement park in Tenerife with a thumbs up from the Amsterdam district court. The orca now lives in a cement tank with other Sea World orcas and has to perform daily to make a living.

Ingrid Visser, a marine biologist known for studying orcas, testified in court on Thursday. She gave evidence to support the case against keeping the orca in captivity. After observing Morgan for 77 hours over a period of eight days Dr Visser witnessed 91 acts of aggression by the other orca on Morgan and documented 320 bite and puncture marks on her body inflicted by the other orca, this is not including the self inflicted injuries Morgan gives herself by banging herself against the tank. The orca is also grinding down its teeth by chewing on the concrete, which is likely to lead to infection. Dr Visser thinks the park is keen to keep the young female orca because of the inbreeding amongst captive orca. "It is clear that Morgan must be immediately removed from this dysfunctional group of orca at Loro Parque, before she is injured any further or succumbs to direct or indirect effects of the injuries and stress," Dr Visser said in a report prepared for the court. The park has now put an end to underwater observation outside show times.

“Orca’s are the most intelligent and sophisticated creatures in the marine environment. We will do our best to convince the judges to release Morgan back in the ocean”  said Jean Michel Cousteau, explorer, environmentalist, educator, film producer, and stand-in for Steve Sizzou (he's also founder of the Ocean Futures Society and member of the Free Morgan Foundation expert board). Amongst the support troupe for the orca is Prince Albert II of Monaco who released a statement endorsing Morgan’s freedom (making this one of the rare occasions when SchNEWS has agreed with a royal).

The trial concludes in 6 weeks time.

For updates keep checking: www.freemorgan.org, twitter, facebook.

Sherman's Lagoon by Jim Toomey
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Twitter: @SchNEWS