Subject: Info: Free Willy, free??

Michael Williamson (whe_william)
Mon, 23 Oct 1995 18:43:06

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Date: Mon, 23 Oct 1995 18:32:31 -0400 (EDT)
From: Michael Williamson <WHE_WILLIAM@FLO.ORG>
Subject: Info: Free Willy, free??
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      NEWPORT, Ore., Oct. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- The following was released
today by the Oregon Coast Aquarium:
    Keiko, the killer whale star of "Free Willy" and "Free Willy 2,"
will move into his brand-new home at the Oregon Coast Aquarium on
January 7, 1996, barring any unforeseen complications.  The target date
was released jointly today by the Aquarium, the Free Willy-Keiko
Foundation and Reino Aventura, Keiko's current home in Mexico City.
    "By locking in a target arrival date, we are moving this project
another giant step ahead," says Dave Phillips, president of the Free
Willy-Keiko Foundation.  "This is an extraordinary time in the history
of an extraordinary project, and it's thanks, in large part, to the
Oregon Coast Aquarium and all the people around the world who've donated
their time and money to make this possible.
    Keiko's new two-million-gallon pool is already 85 percent complete.
The $7.3 million facility has been under construction at the Oregon
Coast Aquarium in Newport since February.  The pool is nearly four times
larger than Keiko's current pool at the Mexico City amusement park, and
will feature not only cold, clean natural sea water but adjustable water
currents, a changeable underwater curtain of air bubbles and water jets,
and an underwater rocky "rubbing beach" to provide Keiko with acoustic
variety as well as a place to scratch.  The new facility is 150 feet
long, 75 feet wide and 25 feet deep.
    Already in hand at the Oregon Coast Aquarium and Reino Aventura are
the government permits necessary to relocate Keiko in the United States.
Three permits are required, in all:  an export permit from the Mexican
government, an import/display permit from the US government, and a
permit in compliance with the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species (CITIES), an international agreement that governs
traffic in a number of endangered and non-endangered animal species.
    The Aquarium is currently interviewing experienced marine
mammologists to take care of Keiko.  Three full-time positions will be
filled by early December.  In addition, two of Keiko's Mexican keepers
will join the Aquarium staff for several months to ease the transition.
    "Having Keiko's trainers here will help both our staff and Keiko,"
says Phyllis Bell, president of the Oregon Coast Aquarium.  "For one
thing, Keiko responds to commands in Spanish.  We'll have to either
retrain our staff to speak Spanish, too, or teach Keiko to recognize
    The trainers will also help their Oregon Coast Aquarium counterparts
interpret Keiko's behaviors and idiosyncrasies.
    In the meantime, Keiko continues to live in a small pool in Mexico
City, where he performs in shows. His medical condition is stable.  He
is roughly a ton underweight, suffers from skin lesions caused by a
papilloma virus, has worn down teeth, and a fallen dorsal fin.
    Fundraising continues both for the pool's completion and for Keiko's
first two years of care, including his veterinary care, food, staff and
transportation to Oregon from Mexico City.  Roughly $6.5 million has
been raised.  The project's goal is $8.5 million. Donations are welcome,
and can be made to the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation, care of the Oregon
Coast Aquarium, 2820 S.E. Ferry Slip Road, Newport, OR  97365.  More
information is also available by calling 1-800-4-WHALES or
    The Oregon Coast Aquarium was first approached about providing a
home for Keiko in May 1994.  Earth Island Institute, an environmental
advocacy group in San Francisco, was charged with finding Keiko a
suitable rehabilitation site.  The Institute identified four main
criteria that would guide its selection:  the chosen facility must not
have performing animals, must have an educational mission, must have an
ample supply of cold, clean, natural sea water, and must have the room
for a sizable expansion.  After a year and a half of searching, the
Oregon Coast Aquarium was the one facility in the country identified by
the Institute as successfully meeting all these criteria.
    The Aquarium deliberated over its decision to accept Keiko and the
new rehabilitation facility until it was satisfied that the
rehabilitation facility would offer visitors a unique educational
opportunity.  The Aquarium's mission is to educate the general public in
an entertaining way about the abundant resources of the Oregon coast,
and orcas are often found off Oregon's shores.
    The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a private, nonprofit, educational
facility that is now in its fourth year of operation.  In addition to
the new rehabilitation facility, the facility is currently planning an
expansion that will complete exhibits on freshwater streams, estuaries
and upland forests
    -0-                         10/17/95
    /CONTACT:  Diane Hammond, PR Officer, Oregon Coast Aquarium,
503-867-3474, ext. 5224; or David Phillips, President, Free
Willy-Keiko Foundation, 415-788-3666/