The fate of a captive orca which Northland marine mammal expert Ingrid Visser is fighting to set free will be known on December 13.
The young female orca, known as Morgan, was rescued off the Dutch coast in 2010 and taken to Dolfinarium Harderwijk, a marine park near Amsterdam, and from there to a theme park in the Canary Islands, Loro Parque.
A group calling itself the Orca Coalition, with help from Dr Visser and the Free Morgan Foundation, has been campaigning to have Morgan returned to the wild. Last Thursday they went back to the Amsterdam District Court in a bid to have Morgan's transfer to Loro Parque declared illegal.
The eight-hour hearing, called a "merit procedure", was held before three judges and a packed courtroom.
As well as Dr Visser, renowned conservationist Jean-Michel Cousteau, orca rehabilitation expert Jeff Foster and other members of the Free Morgan Foundation, the hearing was attended by representatives of Dolfinarium Harderwijk, Loro Parque and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation.
The Orca Coalition's lawyer argued the permit which allowed Morgan to be transferred to Loro Parque had been breached and was in any case unlawful; while Dr Visser presented evidence on the injuries Morgan had suffered in captivity, both self-inflicted and caused by other orca.
Loro Parque's representatives argued that Morgan was deaf and therefore not suitable for a return to the wild.
They could not, however, provide evidence of the orca's deafness as its hearing had yet to be formally tested.
Mr Foster argued Morgan was an excellent candidate for rehabilitation and release.
The judges reserved their decision, which will be released after six weeks' deliberation on December 13.
However, even if the court finds in Dr Visser's favour, Morgan is still a long way from freedom.
The campaigners would then have to persuade the Spanish courts to enforce the decision made by the judges in Amsterdam.