|Keiko News: Then & Now
|The earliest news about Keiko is first,
ending with the latest news on Keiko
|Do you know of any more
Keiko links or pictures?
Email me at
and I will give you credit for it
Keiko is born in 1977 or 1978 in the North Atlantic off of Iceland. In
1979, as a calf barely two years old, he gets caught in a herring fishing
net, is captured and kept in Iceland for three years, until Marineland in
Ontario, Canada buys him. Keiko is one of six orcas being trained by
the park, but he is the youngest and most timid.
By 1985, it's evident that Keiko is not thriving at Marineland and he is
sold to a Mexico City amusement park, Reino Aventura. He lives there
in a small tank with bottlenose dolphins and sea lions, and performs in
five shows a day.
In 1992, Warner Bros. stars Keiko in the lead role in its "Free Willy"
movie. It becomes a box-office smash. But Keiko, its star, is failing and
by the time the film is released in 1993, Keiko has a compromised
immune system, is severely underweight and suffers from significant
muscle atrophy because of his small tank. After seeing "Free Willy,"
more than 300,000 people from around the world call an 800 number
displayed at the end of the movie, expressing their wish that Keiko be
released - just like the Willy character he played. In November 1993,
Life Magazine publishes a headline story on Keiko's plight.
Well aware that Keiko needs a new home, Reino Aventura increases its
efforts to find him one. (In the meantime, Sea World donates chillers to
cool the water temperature in his pool from its high temperature - in the
mid-80s.) Warner Bros. and Earth Island Institution, an environmental
group, also join in the effort to relocate Keiko.
In January 1995, the Free Willy Keiko Foundation is formed, a private,
non-profit organization which gets enough money and support together
to move sick Keiko in January 1996 from Mexico City to a new
rehabilitation facility at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport,
Oregon. The tank is much larger, and has cold sea water.
Keiko's early months in Oregon in 1996 are devoted mainly to
improving his health. He is mentally sluggish from years of torpor in
Mexico City and so out of shape that he can hold his breath, at best, for
three minutes. The outlines of his skull and ribcage show and there are
large warty tissue masses around both pectoral flippers and above his
tail flukes. These are from a normally benign papillomavirus.
Under the guidance of cetacean veterinarian Dr. Lanny Cornell, a
holistic health-care and rehabilitation program focuses on key areas:
cardiovascular workouts coupled with a bigger, better diet; mental
stimulation to wake Keiko from his mental lethargy; and social
By the end of 1996, Keiko has gained over 1,000 pounds, can hold his
breath for over 13 minutes, has lost most of his skin lesions, and is
mentally alert and engaged. His astonishing improvement surprises
everyone. The next goal is to teach Keiko to eat live fish again, to
increase his vigor, muscle tone, skin condition so that he may be
released to the wild and it is hoped, reunited with his family.
In September 1998, 21 year-old Keiko is flown to a protected holding
pen in a cove off the coast of Iceland. There, his rehabilitation
continues as he is monitored and measured. His handlers deliberately
ignore him so that they can make him less dependent on humans and
help Keiko learn to hunt and feed himself. It may take two years to
determine whether Keiko can be released into the icy waters of the
North Atlantic from which he was captured.
|Here are a few of my favorite Keiko links:
|You will always be remembered as the
gentle giant of the seas and will always
be rememberd as my best friend.
You will be greatly missed by all