Did a Depressed SeaWorld Orca Try to Commit Suicide?

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A killer whale on loan from SeaWorld to a theme park in Tenerife, Spain, was caught on-camera last month beaching itself on a concrete slab for at least ten minutes, a sign that the animal may have been trying to kill itself, at least according to social media.

It’s unclear whether the whale actually intended to end her life. Scientists have many theories as to why whales beach themselves, including illness and injury. But simple self-destruction cannot be ruled out either.

In any case, there’s little doubt that Morgan, who was captured off the coast of the Netherlands in 2010 and moved to Loro Parque in Spain a year later, is suffering through trauma. Dr. Ingrid Visser, a marine biologist, told New Zealand’s Stuff the orca’s behavior is “fundamentally wrong.”

“Nowhere in the world do any wild orca slide out onto concrete platforms,” she said. “Nor do they, even when coming onto beaches to take prey, remain in one place for any length of time unless they are stuck.”

This runs counter to Loro Parque’s claim that “voluntary stranding is a natural behaviour of orcas living in the wild.”

This is not Morgan’s first public distress call. In early May, the animal was filmed banging her head against a metal gate in a video that, the Dolphin Project claims, “shows the amount of stress and cruelty imposed on orcas as a result of confinement to small, barren tanks.”

At the time, Loro Parque disputed that claim, saying in a statement that the video showed a “completely normal situation in which there is no problem for the animals.”

SeaWorld owns all six of the killer whales at Loro Parque, and Morgan is the only one that was born in the wild. The park, which has been under attack for several years over its treatment of whales, announced in March that orcas would soon stop performing theatrical shows. Maybe someone should tell the orcas.