Subject: Keiko Eyewitness Account (fwd)

mike williamson (
Fri, 11 Sep 1998 14:06:00 -0400 (EDT)

Subject: Keiko Eyewitness Account

Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 18:07:54 -0700
Subject: Mark Berman - Keiko Eyewitness Account

Keiko is here. He's healthy. He's doing fantastic!

Keiko arrived this morning at 10 am Icelandic time. The plane had a hard
landing, a strut got damaged, but it affected Keiko not at all.  There was
no negative affect to Keiko because the plane is so big.  Dave Phillips and
other Free Willy Keiko Foundation board members were also aboard the aircraft.

By 1:30, Kieko was in the sea pen. The minute he hit the water, he gave a
huge splash with his tail and dove to the bottom and swam the whole
perimeter of the pen.  He explored for about 15 minutes, then came up and
started eating immediately. He hadn't eaten in about 18 hours. 

He made the trip really well. He was very calm. The vet says he's in the
best shape he could possibly be in. 

As Keiko explored the pen, he began vocalizing as he swam. He seemed to be
really thrilled to be back home in this beautiful setting. He's surrounded
by high cliffs with all these seabirds in a natural setting where fish are
coming in and out of the pen.

A couple of hours after he was in the pool, he had a visitor. A pilot whale
came up and started vocalizing with him immediately. They had a
conversation, they were vocalizing back and forth.

This is a beautiful country. It's really amazing. Folks are very friendly.
They see this as a chance to educate people here about whales and how
important they are. Whale watching here has increased to 50,000 visitors
this past year, up from 18,000 the previous year. That's a pretty nice
jump. Although there is a segment of community that still thinks whaling is
good, that segment is starting to loose ground.

The Free Willy Keiko Foundation will build an interpretative center across
the bay from Keiko's pen. There will be telescopes to observe him, but no
local viewing area. Whale watch boats will be kept away so the noise
doesn't bother him.

There are about 450 resident orcas, although surveys of the population are
only just now beginning. The only study done on this population previously
was done by Sea World in the 80's to determine how many orca they could
capture. Now more studies will be done by The Free Willy Keiko Foundation.

Keiko is back in the same water he was born in. It's a massive success.
The Icelandic community is welcoming him with open arms. The streets of
this town of 4000 were lined by children who were let out of school for
occasion. They had huge banners that said Welcome Keiko. Of course the
media presence has been incredible.

Friends of Whales in Iceland believe that Keiko is going to keep Iceland
out of all whaling in the future.

It was very emotional and exciting to see this happen. That this has come
true. The first captive orca ever returned to his home territory. Ever.

Mark Berman - photos, updates every hour

Howard Garrett
Tokitae Foundation
920 Meridian Ave. #2
Miami Beach, FL 33139
(305) 672-4039

For more on Lolita, see the Lolita Come Home web site:

A Review of the Releasability of Long Term Captive Orcas is at: