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Dutch killer whale Morgan finds new home in Spain

November 30, 2011
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MADRID—A young killer whale at the center of a legal battle waged by Dutch conservationists has arrived at its new home on the Canary Islands, a spokeswoman for a Spanish zoo said Wednesday.

The 1,400-kilogram (3,085-pound) female orca named Morgan arrived at Loro Parque on the island of Tenerife late Tuesday after being flown from the Netherlands, Patricia del Ponte said.

Photographs issued showed the whale being lowered by crane in a cloth hammock into a pool tank at the park.

The estimated 3-year-old whale was rescued in shallow waters off the Netherlands in 2010.

The Dutch government permit that originally approved her capture said a Dutch dolphinarium could hold her and restore her health so she could be released.

But after the dolphinarium assembled a team of experts for advice, it was found she had little chance of survival in the wild unless her natal pod, or family, could be identified. Authorities then decided it should be transferred to Loro Parque, which already has several orcas.

Opposing experts for the "Free Morgan" group said the dolphinarium was guided by financial interests, rather than concern for the animal's well-being, and proposed a plan for reintroducing her to the wild.

International treaties prohibit the trade of killer whales -- which are actually classified as oceangoing dolphins -- without special permits. Fewer than 50 orcas are held in captivity worldwide and the bulk of them are owned by SeaWorld, a subsidiary of U.S. private equity giant the Blackstone Group L.P.

A female capable of breeding and introducing new genes into the pool of captive orcas is worth millions of euros (dollars).

Loro Parque said it would provide a home for the orca along with the five others it has.

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Toby Sterling contributed from Amsterdam

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