Thursday, 28th of July 2011
To: The Government of the Netherlands
Re: The proposal to transport the wild-born orca “Morgan” to the zoological park Loro Parque in the Spanish Canary Islands
Dear Esteemed Sirs and Mesdames:
My name is Suzanne Michele Allee, and I am an American national who served as the Director of the Image and Sound Department at Loro Parque’s killer whale venue Orca Ocean for three and a half years. I began working at Loro Parque the day before the orcas arrived from Sea World, on 13th February 2006, and left less than six months before Alexis Martinez was killed by the Sea World male orca Keto. I have seen the inner workings of Loro Parque, and as the director of the Orca Ocean shows, I was coordinating audio, video, and two manned and five remote cameras (four underwater cameras and one aerial camera) from a booth that has a “bird’s eye view” of the entire venue. Additionally, I was surrounded by camera monitors that relayed the orcas’ daily existence on the remote cameras twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I documented much of the work at the park on video and in pictures, shared the trainers’ dressing rooms, and did all of my administrative work in the training staff offices (even sharing a computer with Orca Ocean supervisor Miguel Diaz). More importantly, in order to be able to put together the best shows possible I was in close contact with the trainers regarding the animals’ daily health and temperament, and spent much of my time down by the pools, on the main stage and backstage island, and inside “the tunnel” (the underground operations’ area that lies in-between the main pool and the two back pools), and therefore had almost no choice but to know in great detail the goings-on within Orca Ocean.
In my opinion, Loro Parque is a wholly unsuitable facility for holding any orca, much less a juvenile orca, and even less so a juvenile orca born in the wild. Indeed, I was so distressed by the things I witnessed during my tenure at Loro Parque that I authored a fourteen-page report (attached for reference) and traveled to Washington, D.C. in October of 2010 in order to submit this report in face-to-face meetings with U.S. government officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce: National Marine Fisheries Service/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Marine Mammal Commission, and the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee: Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife.
Loro Parque is a very badly managed facility, and the orcas suffer as a result: Loro Parque puts no value on or even requires higher education for its’ animal caretaking staff, including the majority of the local trainers employed at Orca Ocean; Loro Parque’s Orca Ocean features an unstable social group without any experienced and mature matriarch that results in excessive aggression between the orcas (which would particularly impact Morgan because she would be a new arrival, she would be the youngest female, and she comes from a very different genetic and social background); and Loro Parque is set up for entertainment and breeding, with no research or educational merit, and the entertainment and breeding priorities of Loro Parque often have a negative impact on the whales. These distressing factors and many more are detailed in my attached government report. I would like to add that during my time in Washington, D.C., Kohana, at barely eight-years old, gave birth in Orca Ocean to her first calf at an unnaturally young age, which she summarily rejected.
Additionally, as the lead director of the shows I was continually asked by the owner of the park, Wolfgang Kiessling, to edit down both the content and length of the videos produced and sent to Loro Parque by Sea World, and the trainers’ spoken text (in Spanish) which were accompanied by text rolls in English and German. These videos and texts were included to not only serve as segues between the entertainment portions of the show, but also to specifically address the educational requirements per European Union regulations. Several times I approached Loro Parque Direccion with the proposals to install an Informational Field Trip presentation for local schoolchildren, and also to reenvision the Aula del Mar (“Classroom of the Sea”) into a multi-media learning experience that would feature both visual and aural elements pertaining to orcas; the Aula del Mar was originally built to satisfy the EU requirements for education, but it serves as nothing more noble than a holding area for the audience before the Orca Ocean stadium is open. Both of these proposals could have been accomplished “in-house” at minimal cost to the park but at great benefit to public education, but Loro Parque Direccion was never interested.
I currently work in Media Outreach at Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Kendalia, Texas, and we rescue and release more than three thousand native animals every single year. Because this is the fundamental goal of the organization, the animal caretaking staff limits the amount of human contact the animals are allowed to have during rehabilitation, and as soon as they are healthy enough, the rescued animals are placed in environments that encourage them to develop self-reliance. Last July I had occasion to visit Dolfinarium Harderwijk, and was allowed to view and photograph Morgan just weeks after her rescue from the North Sea. Although she had only been in the care of humans for a few weeks, it was distressing to see how staff did nothing to try to limit her dependence on humans in the way they cared for and fed her, which in my opinion reveals Dolfinarium Harderwijk’s true intent from the very beginning.
I do know that public opinion in Holland is against confining Morgan to a life of sterile captivity, where she will no doubt be bred at a shockingly young age and give birth to orcas that will need to be hand-raised by humans, just like Kohana and her rejected calf Adan. It is no secret that Sea World’s captive orca gene pool is dwindling, and the orcas born under their care are increasingly inbred (three of the Loro Parque orcas were all fathered by Tilikum (the male Tekoa, and females Kohana and Skyla), and two share the same mother (Keto and Skyla). The decision to send Morgan to Loro Parque would result in Sea World’s ability to continue to breed captive orcas for generations to come. The Government of the Netherlands has a once in a lifetime opportunity to take a stand against the unnatural and in many cases forced breeding of captive orcas for nothing more noble than the goals of profit and entertainment, and I politely urge the Government to make a decision that exemplifies the noblest aspirations of humanity, those of compassion and mutual respect, rather than the most base.
Submitted most respectfully,
Suzanne Michele Allee
Environmental groups have not given up on freeing Morgan despite the fact that she was sent to Loro Parque. There is an appeal being worked on to hopefully gain Morgan her rightful freedom. The transfer of an orca is illegal under EU law if done for commercial purposes. Loro Parque and SeaWorld got around this law by claiming the move was for “research”. However, Loro Parque is an entertainment park and they do not conduct orca research. Therefore the sale and shipment of Morgan was illegal.