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KEIKO'S STORY
Who is Free Willy?

You may just know him as 'that whale from Free Willy' but in fact his real name is Keiko and he has a story to tell. Below we have documented the story of Keiko's life so far (researched from Keiko's Foundation and other organisations).

Keiko was born in Iceland in 1977/78 making him twenty years young. When he was around one years old he was captured and taken to Saedyrasfnid an Aquarium in Iceland. Three years later (1982) he was bought by a Marineland in Ontario, Canada where he performed before the public, he began to get skin lesions at this point on his body.

In 1985 he was then sold onto Reino Adventura in Mexico for a measly some of $350,000. Where he began to perform again.

In 1992 Warner Brothers begin making the first Free Willy film, on location in Mexico, filming Keiko.

After the film is release the public lean on Warner Brothers to do something about the living conditions of Keiko after alarming reports in the media relating to his "inadequate living conditions, and chronic health problems". With the parks cooperation Warner Brothers step in to find Keiko a better place to live.

With the help of the Earth Island Institute they find an Aquarium in Newport, Oregon to take Keiko on. The Aquarium filled all the critical criteria such as 'no performing, cold clean sea water, and room to accommodate the huge pool to be built for Keiko'.

In 1994 the Keiko Foundation is formed. With Warner Brothers donating $4million, their mission to rehabilitate Keiko in a new home leading to his possible release back in to the wild.

The very next year, the Keiko Foundation and the Mexican Park jointly announce that Keiko will be moved to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The cost of the new pool being built for him was $7.3million.

School children around the world began to hold fundraising events to help the Keiko Foundation look after Keiko.

The fund gets more promotion as Free Willy 2 is released in 1995.

Keiko's target moving date from Mexico to Oregon was scheduled for 7th January 1996.

The target date for Keiko's move goes ahead as planned and many mexicans visit Keiko for the last time to say goodbye to him. He arrives at Newport Municipal Airport and is introduced to his new home. He weighs in at 7,720 pounds. By the end of 1996 he had gained more that 1,000 pound in weight and his skin lesions were beginning to decrease.

In 1997 live fish were place in Keiko's tank, in order to encourage him to start hunting again.He wasn't interested at first, but after three weeks he caught and eaten at lease one black cod by himself. He was not given live fish again until the beginning of 1998. Also in 1997 he is finally lesion free and weighs 9,620 pounds.

In January 1998 after two months of medical examinations Keiko was given a clean bill of health. They begin plans to move Keiko yet again to a Bay Pen in the North Atlantic. Work on the pen was expected to be completed by June 1998.

By April 1998 Keiko was managing to hunt, kill and eat live Steelhead Trout, eating up to half his daily food intake in this way.

On 9th September 1998, Keiko at last began his journey home to Iceland from his home in Oregon. On September 10th Keiko was met at Vestmannaeyjar Airport in Iceland and taken to his Bay Pen in the ocean. He is still be under human care and continues on with his rehabilitation.

Killer Whale Facts:

Size
Newborn: 7-8 feet
Female: 17-24 feet
Male: 22-27 feet

Female Orca's (cow's) are pregnant for 16/17 months.

Only four percent of the adult pod members die each year, but orcas reproduce slowly because nearly half of the calves born die before they reach one year of age.

Until they are about six, calves spend much time playing—chasing and splashing together. From the age of seven on, females spend more time looking after younger whales, and adolescent males spend more time alone or hanging out with the mature bulls.

Until they are about six, calves spend much time playing—chasing and splashing together. From the age of seven on, females spend more time looking after younger whales, and adolescent males spend more time alone or hanging out with the mature bulls.

Wild orcas eat a wide variety of ocean animals, especially salmon, herring and squid.

The live together in pods and each pod has it's own language handed down from generation to generation.

Sometimes two or more pods may join up into a herd of 50 to 100 whales. The herd will stay together for a while, hunting and traveling, and then break up into the very same pods as before.

Orcas live between 25 and 40 years.

To hunt for fish, an orca frequently dives down to 100 or 200 feet deep for an average of four or five minutes. If they need to, orcas can dive to almost 1,000 feet for more than 10 minutes.

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Email: freewilly@julia1.dircon.co.uk