The Dutch government said on Wednesday it would move a killer whale that was found ailing off the coast last year to an animal park in the Canary Islands despite objections by animal rights groups.
"The orca... can be transported to the Loro Parque zoo" in Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands off Africa's northwestern coast, the economy ministry said in a statement.
The whale, which was found off the Netherlands coast and taken to a marine park in central Harderwijk in 2010, was originally due to be transferred to Tenerife in July.
But the move was suspended after activist groups challenged it in courts, arguing that the orca, a young female dubbed Morgan, should instead be set free.
An Amsterdam court then ordered the government to conduct a more thorough query into the matter and to better lay out its reasoning for transferring the whale.
On Wednesday Henk Bleker, state secretary charged with economic affairs, said the transfer was necessary because it was uncertain whether the whale could fend for itself in the wild.
"In my opinion, the place for an animal like Morgan is in the wild, but that should not come at the expense of its well-being," he was quoted as saying in a statement.
"We do not know with certainty if she will be able to hunt for food by herself," he said.
The Hardewijk marine park where Morgan was taken after his rescue said it wants the animal moved as soon as possible because at one tonne it is much too large for the pool.
The "Orca Coalition" association told AFP it would appeal Wednesday's government decision.
Morgan was spotted in the Wadden Sea in June 2010, the first time a killer whale had been sighted in the area in more than 60 years.
Killer whales generally live in groups in waters deeper than the Wadden Sea, which stretches around 500 kilometres (310 miles) from the southwestern Netherlands up to Denmark.
A dead killer whale was washed up on a beach at western Noordwijk in 1963, but no live sightings have been recorded since 1947, according to the Dutch environment ministry.
Explore further: Study shows even newly hatched chicks have a left to right number space map (w/ Video)