A plane carrying a young killer whale has left the Netherlands and is heading to a Spanish amusement park after conservationists lost a legal battle to have her released into the open sea.
The 1,400-kilogram female orca named Morgan was lifted from her tank by a crane, resting in a hammock which restrained her movement and protected her fins.
Trainers kept her wet during the transfer into a blue-painted box on a truck and her breath stood out in plumes as she exhaled through her blowhole from time to time while hanging several metres aloft in the cool morning air.
More than 50 trainers, handlers and other workers were involved in the operation moving Morgan onto the plane that left Amsterdam headed for the Spanish island of Tenerife.
There Morgan was due to be transferred again onto a lorry and finally hoisted into a much larger tank in Loro Parque by early evening, the Harderwijk Dolphinarium said in a statement.
The city of Harderwijk had issued an emergency ban blocking Free Morgan demonstrations during the transfer, though a coalition of conservationists who sought to have her released said they never planned to interfere with the operation.
"We would never do anything that could endanger Morgan," said coalition spokeswoman Nancy Slot.
Morgan, who is estimated to be about three years old, weighed only 400 kilograms when she was rescued in shallow waters off the Dutch North Sea coast in June 2010.
The Dutch government permit that originally approved her capture said the dolphinarium could hold her and restore her health so she could be released.
But after the park assembled a team of experts for advice on what to do next, they found she had little chance of survival in the wild unless her natal pod, or family, could be identified. Analysis of her vocal patterns showed only that she was from Norwegian waters.