Shocked tourists claimed it looked like a captive SeaWorld killer whale was trying to commit suicide after she beached herself on a concrete slab at a Tenerife tourist park.
Morgan was filmed slumping motionless at the side of a pool for more than ten minutes at Loro Parque in Spain’s Canary Islands.
It comes as footage appeared to show the orca repeatedly banging her head against a metal gate in a desperate attempt at escape just weeks earlier.
The whale, who lives at Loro Parque with five other orcas owned by SeaWorld, had finished a show when she decided to beach herself.
A clip showed the young orca lying next to her tank as spectators got up to leave.
Most visitors walked by oblivious, although a few reportedly stopped to take selfies with the beached whale in the background.
She appeared to flop up and down a few times, before returning to a motionless state.
Writing underneath the video, one shocked viewer wrote: ‘Looks to me as if she’s trying to take her own life, I don’t blame her’.
Sève Jukka May added: ‘LIBEREZ LES ORQUES !!! LEUR PLACE EST DANS L’OCEAN !!! HONTE AUX HUMAINS QUI LES EXPLOITENT’ which translates as: ‘Free the orcas. Their place is in the ocean. Shame on humans who exploit them.’
Animal rights organisation The Dolphin Project said: ‘We cannot explain the reason for her behaviour.
‘Sadly, Morgan was still out of the water by the time the videographers had to leave.’
Wild orcas remain constantly moving and even swim while sleeping, although a few populations occasionally beach themselves for a short period while hunting.
If they are beached for too long the weight of their enormous mass – normally supported by the water’s bouyancy – can crush their internal organs and muscles.
Back in April, Morgan was recorded banging her head repeatedly into a metal grate.
The video, which was given to the Dolphin Project by an anonymous activist, was filmed between orca shows at the popular tourist park.
It shows Morgan, held in a small medical pool, battering the gate and trying to get into a larger pool with a male orca called Tekoa.
‘The orca is obviously in huge distress and rams its head forcefully against the metal gate in what seems to be an attempt to escape,’ Helene Hesselager O’Barry said about the footage.
‘This video shows the amount of stress and cruelty imposed on orcas as a result of confinement to small, barren tanks.’
All six of the whales at the Tenerife park are owned by SeaWorld – which has also come under immense scrutiny for its treatment of whales in captivity.
But the park, which has a controversial history with its killer whales, insisted that the video shows a normal interaction between the two animals.
‘The video published by the Dolphin Project on its website is a new attempt at manipulation through exaggeration and dramatisation of a completely normal situation in which there is no problem for the animals,’ Loro Parque said in a statement.
There have been other instances of seemingly bizarre behaviour in SeaWorld’s orca whales.
Last year a video showed the whale Tilikum floating at the top of his tank, while orcas at SeaWorld San Antonio were said to have severe dental trauma.
The captive orcas were said to have ‘significant wearing’ on their teeth from allegedly chewing their tanks due to boredom.
Heather Rally, a wildlife veterinarian with PETA, told The Dodo: ‘Every single orca that I observed had significant wearing on their teeth, specifically on the lower mandible,’ she said.
‘They start chewing on their tanks. There’s boredom there as a factor, and there’s also stress… as soon as they start doing that they start to traumatize their teeth.’