5 min read

Orca Who Was Once Free Beaches Herself After Performing

SeaWorld's orcas don't all live at SeaWorld. But they're all pretty messed up.

And a recent video shows just how bad it is. Morgan, who lives at Loro Parque in Spain's Canary Islands along with other orcas owned by SeaWorld, recently finished a show when, for some reason, she decided to beach herself on the side of the pool.

The clip shows the young orca lying on the side of her tank, stretched out on a concrete slab, while showgoers get up to leave. Most people don't pay her any attention - a few reportedly stopped to take selfies with the beached orca in the background.

She stayed there, motionless, for at least 10 minutes.

"We cannot explain the reason for her behavior," The Dolphin Project said in a statement. "Sadly, Morgan was still out of the water by the time the videographers had to leave."

Needless to say, hanging out of the water for minutes on end isn't normal behavior. While a few wild orca populations occasionally beach themselves temporarily while hunting, wild orcas remain constantly in motion, and even swim while sleeping.

Remaining on land can also pose health threats, as water is buoyant, and the weight of their bodies out of the water can crush internal organs and other structures.

Strange and even dangerous behavior is nothing new for SeaWorld's orcas - they've been spotted floating for hours on end, "pacing" their tanks, breaking their teeth off on tank walls, grievously injuring each other and more. Back in April, Morgan was recorded banging her head over and over again into a metal grate.

But while all of SeaWorld's orcas have their own sad stories that explain their behavior, Morgan's story is a bit worse than most. She was first spotted in 2010 swimming off the Dutch coast, and appeared ill and emaciated. The Harderwijk Dolphinarium captured her on the grounds of rehabilitating her.

But instead of being re-released, she was then shipped to Loro Parque - on the basis of scientific research, no less - to be a performing orca. SeaWorld now claims ownership of Morgan, and she remains in captivity despite the protests of numerous marine biologists and welfare experts, including leading orca expert Dr. Ingrid Visser, who subsequently cofounded the Free Morgan Foundation.

Her life in captivity hasn't been easy. In addition to the normal stress of captivity, Morgan has reportedly been targeted by the other orcas and is regularly attacked by them.

As The Dolphin Project noted, Morgan's current state - and her bizarre self-inflicted beaching - is all the more tragic considering that she's known what it's like to swim free.

"The juxtaposition of a previously wild orca against the stark backdrop of the park's performance area is unsettling, to say the least," the group said.

To help Morgan, you can make a donation to the Free Morgan Foundation through its website. You can also donate to The Dolphin Project to help wild dolphins and whales worldwide.