Northland orca expert Ingrid Visser is heading back to Holland for a last-ditch court battle to save a young orca from a life of captivity.
On November 1 three judges in the Amsterdam District Court will revisit last year's decision to allow an orca rescued off the Dutch coast, known as Morgan, to be shipped to a theme park in Spain instead of being returned to the wild.
Tutukaka-based Dr Visser will be one of the expert witnesses and says her evidence will be "a real eye-opener". She is due to file her court documents on October 18 and arrives in Amsterdam later this month, after publicising Morgan's plight at WhaleFest 2012 in London.
The young female orca was found alone and emaciated off the Dutch coast in June 2010. It was rescued and taken to a marine park near Amsterdam known for its dolphin shows, Dolfinarium Harderwijk, where it was nursed back to health. But instead of trying to return Morgan to the wild, the park made plans to transfer it to Loro Parque in Spain's Canary Islands.
In August 2011 the Orca Coalition, with help from Dr Visser and the Free Morgan Foundation, won a landmark legal victory when the Dutch courts blocked Morgan's transfer. At the time Dr Visser said it was "an incredible victory for people power over a multi-million-dollar industry".
The Free Morgan Foundation prepared a detailed rehabilitation plan which would have seen Morgan returned to its home waters off northern Norway.
Their celebrations were short-lived, however, because in November 2011 the Dutch courts ruled the transfer could go ahead.
In next month's "merit procedure'', three judges will revisit last November's decision. They cannot make any new orders about Morgan's future, but if they find any legal errors were made last year they can send the case back to the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Agriculture. The Ministry would then have to reconsider whether the orca should remain captive or be released.
Lara Pozzato, a marine biologist with the Free Morgan Foundation, said the November 1 hearing would take one day, then the judges would have six weeks to make a decision. If it was beyond their expertise they could call in the European Commission for help.
Even if the judges found in the coalition's favour and the Ministry cancelled Morgan's export permit, that would not be the end of the battle, Dr Pozzato said.
To get Morgan back to Holland or Norway in preparation for release, the group would have to ask the Spanish courts to enforce the decision made in the Amsterdam court.
Despite spending more than two years in captivity, Dr Visser said Morgan could still be returned to the wild.
"At the very least she should be removed from the dysfunctional group of orca who attack and bite her daily,'' Dr Visser said.
Morgan's family was seen earlier this year off the Norwegian coast, just a few kilometres from the site where the Free Morgan Foundation wanted to rehabilitate and release the young orca.