Subject: Info: Free Willy (fwd)

Michael Williamson (williams)
Mon, 2 Jan 1996 12:45:13

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From: Michael Williamson <>
Subject: Info: Free Willy (fwd)
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Date: Mon, 1 Jan 96 21:55:00 UTC 0000
Subject: Free Willy
Free Willy
 Associated Press Writer
   MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Keiko, the captive killer whale who escaped
in the movie "Free Willy," is leaving his pool again -- this time
for a bigger one on the Oregon shore. If he's lucky, he'll get a
girlfriend in the bargain.
   After living at the Reino Aventura (Adventure Kingdom) amusement
park here for the past decade, Keiko will be moved Jan. 7 to the
Oregon Coast Aquarium near Newport.
   Preparations for moving the 7,000-pound mammal are already
   "He knows how to get onto the sling that will lift him up,"
said Renata Fernandez, 25, who has been one of his trainers for
five years. She said his diet had been increased from 110 to 175
pounds of fish a day to help him adjust to the lower water
temperature in Oregon.
   The amusement park is donating the 15-year-old whale to the Free
Willy Keiko Foundation of San Francisco, which has arranged with
the Oregon aquarium to take care of him. Keiko needs more room than
the Mexico City amusement park can provide and is suffering from
viral skin lesions veterinarians have been unable to cure.
   The foundation and the aquarium both say they hope Keiko can be
returned to the wild but many doubt that will be possible.
   In the movie, the whale escapes with the help of a troubled boy.
Many of the scenes were shot at Reino Aventura but those in the
wild used a whale robot. The robot was used exclusively in Free
Willy II, the sequel.
   Keiko will be shipped on a C-130 Hercules transport plane from
Mexico City to Newport in a five-ton stainless steel case. United
Parcel Service is making the move gratis.
   During the flight, Keiko will be covered with a thick cream to
regulate his body temperature. Veterinarians and others will use
tons of ice and water during the 8-hour flight from Mexico City to
Newport to keep the temperature right.
   Immersion is not necessary -- Keiko breathes air just as humans
   He will be moved into a holding tank adjacent to his pool,
guided into a sling and lifted by crane into the case on a flatbed
   Warner Bros., which made the two movies, contributed $2 million
to the move. Other contributors included the Northwest Elementary
School in Tampa, Fla., which raised $30,000.
   The entire budget for the operation is about $9 million,
including building the tank and caring for Keiko in Newport for the
first two years.
   "After that if he cannot be released and the foundation does
not have the money for his care, the aquarium will pay for it,"
said Phyllis Bell, executive director of the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
   The viral infection shows up as a grayish-white scab-like area
behind his right front flipper, something veterinarian Jose Luis
Solorzano says might go away by itself in the cooler sea water of
his new home.
   "It has been implied that Keiko is going because he has been
mistreated here," he said. "But look, he isn't miserable. He just
needs a bigger pool and he needs a lady."
   Fernandez and another trainer, Carla Corrao, 24, will spend
several months in Newport until Keiko gets used to his new
surroundings. He will not have to perform his tricks there.
   After that?
   "We don't want to think about it; he's our baby. We take care
of him, we feed him, we pet him," said Corrao.
   To release Keiko in U.S. waters, permission would be required
from the National Marine Fisheries Service, which administers the
Marine Mammals Protection Act.
   "The skin lesion is a concern of the agency as is the release
of an animal into the wild who has spent most of his life in
captivity," said agency spokesman Scott Smullen.
   "Can it forage on its own and have the survival skills?"
   "From what I have learned, Keiko wouldn't make it," said
Marilee Keefe, director of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and
Aquariums of the United States from its headquarters in Virginia.
"A sick animal can't make it in the wild. It's not a very nice