Case Study: ``Free Willy'' star not wanted (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Mon, 11 Jan 1996 17:09:40

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From: Michael Williamson <>
Subject: Case Study: ``Free Willy'' star not wanted (fwd)
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Date: Wed, 10 Jan 96 03:16:00 UTC 0000
Subject: ``Free Willy'' star not wanted
``Free Willy'' star not wanted in Iceland home
     REYKJAVIK, Iceland (Reuter) - Keiko, the three-ton male
killer whale made famous by the film "Free Willy," will not be
welcome in its home waters off Iceland because it might carry
contagious diseases, Icelandic authorities said Tuesday.
     Johann Sigurjonsson, deputy director of the state-run Marine
Research Institute, told Reuters the whale could pose a health
risk to killer whale stock near the north Atlantic nation.
     He described suggestions that the whale should be brought
back to Iceland as a publicity stunt.
     "We had a group of people ... visit us in the autumn of
1993 and we told them in no uncertain terms that we would not
allow them to free the animal in Icelandic waters," he added.
     Keiko was caught in Icelandic waters 12 years ago and has
spent all but two years of its life in captivity. It was the
star attraction at a Mexican amusement park until it won fame in
the 1993 hit movie about a whale freed from captivity.
     Project leaders who have raised money for Keiko's real-life
release had asked that it be returned to its home waters off
Iceland. The whale was transferred at the weekend to a larger,
more suitable tank in the northwestern U.S. state of Oregon
after a day-long journey by air and land from Mexico City.
     The film drew attention to Keiko's own medical problems,
which include skin lesions, digestive problems and poor muscle
tone blamed on inactivity in the warm water of its Mexican home.
     Aquarium officials hope the new larger tank and the cooler
Oregon water will help prepare Keiko for an unprecedented
attempt to release it back to the wild. No captive killer whale
has been returned to the wild and success is not guaranteed.