Subject: Info: Free Willy a Step Closer

Michael Williamson (whe_william)
Mon, 8 Jan 1996 10:24:25

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Date: Mon, 08 Jan 1996 10:21:59 -0500 (EST)
From: Michael Williamson <WHE_WILLIAM@FLO.ORG>
Subject: Info: Free Willy a Step Closer
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From:	SMTP%"MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET"  6-JAN-1996 14:48:02.44
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Subj:	``FREE WILLY'' WHALE TO START OWN TREK TO FREEDOM
 
Date:         Sat, 6 Jan 1996 13:59:02 +1300
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From:         Terry Hardie <terry@bytes.gen.nz>
Subject:      ``FREE WILLY'' WHALE TO START OWN TREK TO FREEDOM
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06-Jan-96 01:54 pm Urgent  International
 
``FREE WILLY'' WHALE TO START OWN TREK TO FREEDOM
 
 
   Mexico City, Jan 5 Reuter - Keiko, star of the blockbuster WHALE
movie ``Free Willy'', starts his own personal odyssey toward freedom
on Sunday as he leaves capitivity in Mexico for a new life in
Oregon.
   The 6m KILLER WHALE, who for 11 years has been star attraction in
an amusement park in Mexico City, will be airlifted in a Hercules
tranport plane early on Sunday to a specially built aquarium in
Newport, Oregon.
   There, experts hope, they can coax him back to full health and
weight in a large salt water tank, end his role as a stunt performer
and eventually take the unprecedented step of returning him to the
ocean to find his family and a mate.
   Keiko leapt to stardom in his role as ``Willy'' in the 1993
Warner Brothers movie about a WHALE released from grim capitivity
and released at sea with the help of a small boy.
   In a case of life imitating art, a US group known as the Free
Willy foundation, backed with $US2 million ($NZ3.1 million) from
Warner Brothers, pulled together funds to build him a better
aquarium in Newport, and arranged his transfer.
    ``The movie ended beautifully but (Warner Brothers worried) that
the star of the movie was in a facility that didn't meet his
needs,'' David Phillips, director of the foundation, told reporters
here on Friday.
   To offset criticism about a mammal that quickly became the most
famous WHALE in the world, Phillips said the movie studio joined
Mexico's Reino Aventura amusement park in planning his
rehabilitation.
   Experts deny that Keiko is in bad health but he suffers a skin
irritation, is about a ton underweight and has now reached sexual
maturity at the age of 15.
   With cash-strapped Reino Aventura unable to afford him a female
companion, Phillips said it became the first amusement park ever to
give away a killer -- or oRCA -- WHALE.
   ``It was almost impossible to find him a mate. We did it out of
concern for Keiko, not because of pressure,'' said the park's
director general Antonio Quevedo.
   Starting early on Sunday, Keiko will be lifted into a portable
water tank, trucked to the airport and flown in a sling inside the
tank aboard a C-130 Hercules for a nine-hour, $US500,000 flight to
Oregon.
   His new home will be a two million gallon salt water pool, built
with donations at a cost of around $US8 million. The pool is five
times larger than his current one.
   Phillips said he would be taught to eat live fish and gradually
trained to return to sea. Biologists would perform DNA tests to try
to trace his family off the Iceland coast.
   No captive oRCA has ever been returned to the wild, and success
is not guaranteed.
   For Keiko, the gamble may be worth it. If he returns to sea his
lifespan could increase to around 40 years because of the natural
environment, Phillips said, and there was still a chance he could
find a mate and start a family of his own.
 
 
Reuter mel