THIS IS the heartbreaking moment Morgan the killer whale leaps from her tank in what animal activists believe was a suicide attempt.
Footage that went viral in 201, shows the orca lying motionless for ten minutes as she beaches herself on the edge of her tank.
Was Morgan the whale trying to kill herself when she laid on the edge of her tank?
Animal activists and worried viewers argued the animal was attempting to take her own life as she was unhappy in captivity at Loro Parque in the Canary Islands.
Park keepers however rubbished the video and said it was an “exaggeration” and insisted the behaviour was “completely normal”.
Killer whales who beach for too long are crushed by their own body weight and die as their vast bulk unbuoyed by water crushes their internal organs.
And another video which emerged around the same time showed her repeatedly smashing her head against a metal gate.
And it’s also been suggested that the orca was actually trying to “escape” its captivity rather than harm itself in the clip.
Morgan was captured in the Wadden Sea off The Netherlands and taken into captivity in 2010 as she was found to be malnourished and in poor condition.
She has been the subject of long-running battles between the park organisations and animal rights activists who argue that orcas should not be kept in captivity.
Morgan was claimed to have originally been captured under the proviso that she would be released back into the wild and she would not be put on display to the public.
However, she ended up at Loro Parque when she was turned into one of the park’s attractions.
The park argues she cannot be released to the wild as she is deaf and would not survive in the ocean.
Morgan had originally been “owned” by SeaWorld – but was loaned to the Spanish park as part of a breeding programme.
And in May 2016 her apparent plight emerged to the world in the infamous video released by The Dolphin Project.
The footage showed Morgan lying on her belly on the edge of her 100m long, 12 metre deep concrete tank beneath the sign that read “Loro Parque”
All we can do is look at her behaviour, which is exhibiting signs of deep distress and major social problems
“This is one of many examples of what is wrong with captivity. One would never see this bizarre behavior in nature,” The Dolphin Project said.
It remains unclear exactly what Morgan was doing as she lay on the edge of her tank – but experts at the time did not rule out an attempt at self-harm.
John Hargrove, a former orca trainer, told The Daily Mail: “How could we possibly know — she’s a whale.
“All we can do is look at her behaviour, which is exhibiting signs of deep distress and major social problems.”
Hargrove, who worked with 20 orcas over 14 years while working for SeaWorld, added: “Extended beaching is a sign the whale is deeply distressed in its environment and its social group.”
Dr. Ingrid Visser, a marine biologist, described Morgan’s behaviour as “fundamentally wrong” and said she was attempting to escape.
Wolfgang Rades, the director of Loro Parque Zoo, however disagreed and said: “Beaching themselves is completely normal behaviour — orcas do it all the time in the wild when they’re hunting.
“They are not unhappy.”
He added: “There is just more for them to see out of the tank.”
Her ownership was officially transferred to Loro Parque in 2017 as SeaWorld stopped breeding killer whales.
The Free Morgan Foundation claims the whale has been exploited as she was trained to perform tricks and kept in tanks “barely large enough” for her size.
“We have not given up on Morgan – she continues to suffer in captivity and therefore we will continue to expose the scandal of what has happened,” the group claim.
And meanwhile, Morgan was struck by tragedy last month when the calf that she gave birth to in 2018 – Ula – died.
The orca remains at Loro Parque to this day and the row shows no signs of ending between the aquarium and animal rights campaigners.
Whales in captivity have been reported to have committed self-destructive behaviour such as wearing their teeth and bumping their heads against their tanks.
And there have been high profile cases such as Hugo, who is claimed to have essentially killed himself after ramming his head into his tank and later getting a brain aneurysm.
Another killer whale – named Kiska – was last week filmed smashing her head against the side of her tank in a chilling echo of Hugo.
Morgan the whale has been held in captivity since she was caught in 2010Credit: YouTube
Morgan the whale had a calf called Ula – but she died this AugustCredit: YouTube
Whales in wild have also exhibited some self-destructive behaviours, with reports of mass whale beachings – however, this is often attributed to confusion or sickness.
While it is unclear if these actions can be definitively classified as “suicide attempts” – the animals appear to be in distress.
And this behaviour has been widely documented in orcas kept captive.
Killer whales have the second largest brain in the animal kingdom at 6kgs – four times bigger than humans with 1.5kg.
Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, a nonprofit, told National Geographic in 2019 that due to their size and intelligence orcas do not do well when kept in enclosures.
“It’s basic biology,” she said.
“If you have evolved to move great distances to look for food and mates then you are adapted to that type of movement, whether you’re a polar bear or an elephant or an orca.
“You put [orcas] in a box that is 150 feet long by 90 feet wide by 30 feet deep and you’re basically turning them into a couch potato.”
She added: “Not one marine mammal is adapted to thrive in the world we’ve made for them in a concrete box.”
But despite it being accepted that animals can engage in self-destructive behaviour – it is unclear if whales are capable of “suicide” in the human understanding of the term.
Dolphins however are claimed to be capable of taking their own life – with numerous anecdotal cases, such as the case of Peter.
A study in 2017 found that 25 per cent of all orcas in captivity have severe tooth damage, and 70 per cent have at least some teeth problems.
Captive orcas are said to grind their teeth on tank walls to the point that the nerves are exposed – leaving them with ground down and open cavities.
Hit documentary film Blackfish laid bare the psychological toll which is said to occur on orcas in captivity – including testimony from former trainers.
SeaWorld trainers have claimed during their time working at aquariums that the whales regularly self-harmed due to psychological trauma.
One said the whales would regularly damage their jaws and have to be given medication such as Valium to help calm them down.
Hargrove added: “I worked with some whales that were on medication every day of their life and have personally watched whales die at very young ages from disease.
“It was the most difficult decision in my life to have to walk away from the whales I loved to be able to become a whistle-blower and expose the industry.”
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