Subject: Free Willy: Sea Pen Is Unveil (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Fri, 13 Mar 1998 11:48:21 -0500 (EST)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 10 Mar 98 04:13:00 GMT 
Subject: 'Free Willy' Sea Pen Is Unveil

'Free Willy' Sea Pen Is Unveiled

   NEWPORT, Ore. (AP) -- Keiko got his first look Monday at the
design for his halfway house to the open sea.
   The group that rescued the "Free Willy" star from a cramped
Mexico City amusement park two years ago unveiled a scale model of
the sea pen that will be used to adapt the killer whale to his
eventual home in the North Atlantic.
   "From this new home, Keiko will be safely reintroduced to the
sounds and sensations of his native environment after 18 years of
living in concrete pools," said Beverlee Hughes, president of the
Free Willy Keiko Foundation.
   The $350,000 floating pen will be placed somewhere in the North
Atlantic, possibly as early as this fall. There, he will learn how
to catch fish, swim against the tides and smooth the transition to
the day when he will be set completely free, just like in the
   Foundation spokeswoman Diane Hammond said the group is
negotiating with the governments of Iceland, Ireland and Scotland
and hopes to have a site picked soon.
   "If everything comes together, we're still hoping to be able to
move him to the sea pen by this fall," Hammond said.
   The sea pen will be 250 feet long, 100 feet wide and 24 feet
deep or more, depending on the actual depth of the bay or fjord
that's selected. The pen will not be attached to land but will be
anchored to the bottom of the bay and will be reachable by boat.
   Last fall, officials at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, where Keiko
has been the star attraction, raised concerns with the foundation
about whether Keiko was healthy enough to be released to the wild.
   Aquarium President Phyllis Bell said Monday, however, said that
those concerns were put to rest earlier this year when a federally
appointed panel of experts gave Keiko a clean bill of health.
   "We're totally supportive," she said.