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International Marine Mammal Project

Keiko progresses to freedom in Iceland

International Marine Mammal Project

Keiko, the orca star of the movie Free Willy who is himself being freed from captivity, spent the summer of 2001 offshore on numerous occasions exploring wild orca pods. He wears an advanced satellite tracking system which allows his location to be known at all times, and is monitored from a helicopter and small boats as well.

As he recuperates from strict confinement, Keiko has increased his distance on these swims to 20 miles. This indicates he likely has the stamina to keep up with a wild pod when he eventually gains total freedom. He is also catching and eating live fish in addition to the frozen fish fed him by his human guardians.

Keiko is now ready to spend the summer interacting with wild whales for the third season since his return to his home in Iceland. This past winter, Keiko stayed in the large bay that housed his original sea pen; he remained in good physical shape because the bay, at a million square feet, is large enough for a whale to exercise in. Keiko is in the best possible situation for any captive orca. The bay in which Keiko lives is more than fifteen times the size of the Oregon tank that previously housed him. As a 25-year-old male, Keiko thrives while his counterparts in the captive display industry are swimming in circles in concrete boxes.

The time is now to end this industry and work to rehabilitate and release more captive orcas.


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