Subject: Info: Willy's New Home

Michael Williamson (whe_william)
Mon, 11 Feb 1995 13:13:59

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From: Michael Williamson <WHE_WILLIAM@FLO.ORG>
Subject: Info: Willy's New Home
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      NEWPORT, Ore., Feb. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Keiko (Kay-ko), the killer
whale star of the hit movie Free Willy, is getting a new home at last.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and the
Mexican park Reino Aventura jointly announced today in Newport, Oregon
that all final signatures have been acquired to cement the deal, and
that construction is already underway on a two million gallon
rehabilitation pool for the ailing whale.
    The Free Willy Keiko Foundation simultaneously announced the
kick-off of a major fundraising campaign to raise the roughly
$10 million needed for Keiko's facility, care and rehabilitation.  The
Foundation has already received over $4 million in gifts ranging from a
$2 million pledge to the weekly allowances sent by many grade school
    "We're very pleased to have reached a formal agreement that gives
the green light to building Keiko a new facility," says David Phillips,
executive director of Earth Island Institute and founder of the Free
Willy Keiko Foundation, which is heading up the project's fundraising
efforts.  "But we've got a long way to go before Keiko can move there.
This is an ambitious effort.  But the whole project depends on raising
the completion funds."
    Earth Island Institute, which established the Free Willy Keiko
Foundation in November 1994, has worked for more than a year on the
ailing killer whale's behalf.  The foundation's mission is to raise the
necessary funds for the animal's relocation, rehabilitation and
potential release to the wild, as well as for the future operation of
the new facility as a center for the rescue and rehabilitation of marine
mammals.  It received an initial donation of $2 million from Warner
Bros. and New Regency Productions, which produced Free Willy, and a
second substantial contribution from an anonymous donor.
    If fundraising efforts go well, Keiko may be in his new home by the
end of this year.  Freedom itself is also a possibility if the whale,
which suffers from a skin virus and other medical problems, can be
returned to health and retrained in the skills necessary to survive in
the wild.
    The new facility under construction at the Newport, Oregon aquarium
will include a pool that is far larger than Keiko's current home at
Reino Aventura, a marine park in Mexico City.  To make the pool seem
even larger, its design won't let Keiko see from one end to the other.
And unlike his current swimming-pool-style tank, Keiko's new facility
will look and feel as natural as possible.  The 150-foot-long,
75-foot-wide, 25-foot-deep pool will be filled with cold clean sea water
and will include intricate, naturalistic rockwork above and under water
that will support algae growth.  At one end of the pool an underwater
"rubbing beach" will also provide acoustic variety.
    The public will be able to see Keiko only from an underwater vantage
point.  "We're not building a stadium -- he's not going to perform shows
here.  He'll be here to get well, period," states Phyliss A. Bell,
Oregon Coast Aquarium president.  "But without being intrusive our
visitors will still have a chance to see, from an underwater window, an
incredible animal doing what he does naturally:  exploring his
surroundings.  It's an extraordinary educational opportunity."
    A separate medical pool, a freezer capable of holding 120,000 pounds
of frozen fish, and a loading dock are also part of the planned
facility, which has a price tag of $7.3 million.  Relocation, veterinary
care and operating expenses will total another $3 million for Keiko's
first three years.
    Keiko, about 16 years old, was originally captured in Icelandic
waters when he was about two years old.  He has lived at Reino Aventura
since 1985 in a pool that is too small for his needs and in water that
is often too warm.  Last year, in an effort to shore up the ailing
animal's health until a new home could be found, Warner Bros. donated
water chillers.  But the 21-foot, 3.5-ton animal is still nearly a ton
underweight, suffers from skin lesions caused by a papilloma virus, has
a fallen dorsal fin, and has badly worn teeth.
    "Hundreds of thousands of America's children have expressed their
concern about Keiko both to Warner Bros. and to us," says Earth Island's
David Phillips.  "Finally we've got a workable plan for Keiko and a way
for people to help."
    Donations to help relocate and rehabilitate Keiko can be made to the
Free Willy Keiko Foundation, care of Earth Island Institute,
300 Broadway, Suite 28, San Francisco, California, 94133 or, in Newport,
Oregon, to Free Willy Keiko Foundation, care of Oregon Coast Aquarium,
2820 S.E. Ferry Slip Road, Newport, Oregon 97365.
    The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a private, nonprofit, educational
facility that aims to educate a broad spectrum of the public in an
enjoyable way about Oregon's abundant natural resources, so they will
cherish and conserve them now and in future generations.  The facility's
strong emphasis on education and conservation was one of the primary
reasons for its selection as Keiko's future home.  Also a consideration
was the facility's ability to house such a large exhibit.  The Oregon
Coast Aquarium occupies 32 acres on Yaquina Bay, roughly a quarter-mile
from the Pacific Ocean, and showcases Oregon's coastal habitats from the
Coast Range mountains to the open ocean.  The $24 million facility,
which opened in 1992, is currently at work on an expansion that will
complete exhibits on freshwater streams, estuaries and upland forests.
    -0-                       2/8/95
    /CONTACT:  Diane Hammond, PR Officer of the Oregon Coast Aquarium,
503-867-3474, ext. 5224; or David Phillips of Free Willy Keiko
Foundation, 415-788-3666/