Subject: Keiko: Update on Keiko (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Tue, 13 Oct 1998 15:54:54 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 12 Oct 1998 10:55:48 -0700
From: Annelise Sorg <>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Subject: Update on Keiko

After a month in his new digs, Keiko makes himself at home

Trainers say the killer whale is more curious and aggressive, swimming li=
a wild whale and even beginning to hunt

Saturday, October 10 1998
By Katy Muldoon of The Oregonian staff

One month ago today, two big names topped the news: Clinton and Keiko.

One was in hot water, the other in cold.

Little has changed.

A month after his dramatic return to the brisk waters off Iceland, where =
was captured nearly two decades ago, the world's most famous killer whale
apparently fares far better than his fellow newsmaker.

He has easily weathered fierce storms, communicated with cousin species
in the vicinity, snacked on passing fish and begun to swim in patterns mo=
common to wild whales than to those in captivity, arching his back
dramatically and spending much time under water.

"We're really enthusiastic about the progress he's made in a short period=
time," said Bob Ratliffe, executive vice president of the Free Willy Keik=

"He's more active, more aggressive and more curious than in Newport."

Keiko first gained international fame for his starring role in the 1993 W=
Bros. movie "Free Willy." The feel-good film, while fictional, brought th=
whale's real-life plight to light: Aging and ailing, he swam in a too-sma=
too-warm tank in a Mexico City amusement park. It would have been his
watery grave had whale lovers not rallied to his cause.

Keiko moved in January 1996 to a far larger, colder pool at the Oregon Co=
Aquarium in Newport, where for 2=87 years marine mammal experts improved
his diet, toned his muscles, cured his ailments and readied him for the n=

On Sept. 9, as TV viewers around the world watched, a U.S. Air Force C-17
cargo plane picked him up and delivered him the following day to
Vestmannaeyjar, or the Westmann Islands of Iceland. There, the well-trave=
orca was placed in a netted pen in a sheltered cove.

Keepers -- 10 of them moved from Newport to Iceland to care for Keiko --
work toward boosting the whale's strength, stamina and skills. Their
ultimate hope is to set the whale free in the waters where he was
captured as a 2-year-old calf.

However, the foundation, which owns the whale, says it will not release
Keiko unless keepers thinks he has grown fierce enough to survive the
rigors of life in the wild North Atlantic.

Meanwhile, he's getting to know his new neighbors. During the last couple
weeks, the foundation and an Icelandic bank have chartered tour boats to
take about 1,000 Westmann Islands schoolchildren, 50 at a time, to the
bay pen for a look at Keiko.

"He spy hops and puts on quite a show for the kids," Ratliffe said, refer=
to when Keiko raises his head from the water, perhaps just to look around.

The whale's keepers are busy tightening the pens mooring lines, loosened
not only by a September storm that packed winds in excess of 100 mph,
but also another last weekend with 80 mph winds.

Next week, they expect to have a salmon holding pen in place near Keiko's
pen. The foundation has contracted with an Icelandic fisherman to provide
live salmon and when the stock arrives, keepers will resume training the
whale to eat live fish -- a project they started, with some success, in
Newport. Hunting skills are paramount if Keiko ever is to be set free.

Currently, he eats a daily diet of about 170 pounds of fish that has been
frozen and thawed.

This weekend, the staff expects researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution to arrive in Iceland to continue work they began in Oregon.
are recording Keiko's vocalizations, videotaping his behavior and recordi=
the time and depth of his dives, among other projects.

In the coming year, they plan to begin genetics testing on wild Icelandic
killer whales -- a project that could help them identify Keiko's family

All in all, he has fared better than the C-17 that delivered him to Icela=
busted its right side landing gear when it touched down on the Vestmannae=
runway. Contacted Friday, a U.S. Air Force spokeswoman could disclose
neither the cause of the failure, which still is under investigation, nor=
of repairs. However, the matter was classified as a Class A flight mishap=
, a
designation used for incidents resulting in more than $1 million in losse=

Posted by
Annelise Sorg, Director
102 - 1365 West 4th Avenue,
Vancouver, B.C. Canada V6H 3Y8
Tel: (604) 736-9514
Cel: (604) 838-3642
Fax: (604) 731-2733