Case Study: Free Willy-Keiko (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Mon, 17 Jan 1996 16:28:21

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From: Michael Williamson <>
Subject: Case Study: Free Willy-Keiko (fwd)
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Date: Sat, 13 Jan 1996 17:00:11 -0500
To: Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
Subject: Keiko
Greetings Marmamers... While there may be some "value to science" in the
Keiko event, there are larger values to advocacy.  There is nothing
inherently wrong with that.  I think the big price tag influences one's
response to the effort.  If, for instance, the general public can be
encouraged to actually give some thought to the issues of cetaceans in
captivity, or learn something about orcas and their habitats, or even, more
simply, if attention is called to just how widespread the interest in marine
species is, Keiko's journey should be counted valuable.
On the other hand, if Keiko is just a shill to raise additional money for
animal welfare and conservation groups, there are some who will cry foul.
 But that's not necessarily true.  If funds raised by Keiko, directly and
indirectly, are used for other perhaps more pressing problems, that's not so
bad.  If advocates "use" Keiko to contribute to the general awareness of
wildlife problems, issues and needs, they are just doing their jobs.
One could dream that Keiko's celebrity might loosen up contributions which
could then help Leatherwood's efforts for the baiji, or fund research on the
golden frog, or the wandering albatross, or the Andean cat.  That would be
NGOs have a task that is not easy.  Keiko and the "Free Willy" mentality are
legitimate platforms to educate and inspire, to keep the public aware that
all the whale problems are not solved, to remind humans that they share the
planet with other species.  Someone mentioned the gray whale ice stranding
and conjured up the Soviet ice breaker churning through Arctic waters...
 yes.  And one could say that was a "waste" of time and money, too, since it
was a natural if sad event.  But the public got many educating ideas out of
that one, besides the rescue of the whales -- two "enemy" nations
cooperating, the environment bringing together unlikely comrades, a reminder
of the return of the gray whale because of conservation efforts... that was
also a valuable platform for advocacy.
And of course people get emotional.  The issues are pressing.  The work
requires passion.  And stamina.  Both in large measure.  Years ago the
environmentalist/lawyer Alexandra Dawson said something to me that chilled
and inspired:  "We're not saving anthing," she said, "we're divvying up
what's left."   And what's left is less than was there when she said that.
Can't we all get along?
Phoebe Wray