Keiko, AKA The Killer Whale who starred in "Free Willy" - was actually "freed" in 1998 but was he actually a "Free" whale or just an experiment for personal Beliefs of the anti-captivity community? THIS is Keiko's Story through His Eyes...
"I was Born in Iceland around 1977 or 1978. When I was barely a year old, I was captured by a fishing boat and taken from my family. I was first held at a Aquarium in Iceland until I was sold to Marineland Ontario in Canada. I performed at Marineland from 1982 to 1985. Marineland sold me to a Marine Park in Mexico called 'Reino Adventura'. At Reino Adventura, I was kept alone with dolphins as my companions. I performed from then and even did waterwork with my trainers.
Around 1992, I was going to be featured in a new Warner Bros. family film, called "Free Willy" - About a Young Boy who befriends and frees a whale. In 1993, It hit theaters and more people would come to see me perform at Reino Adventura. The film impacted many children and families and soon They began to demand that I be freed in reality. It's strange how people take a Hollywood film way too literally. However, I did deserve a better home. My living conditions in Mexico were inhumane. Not only was the tank too small, I was suffering from a Skin disease from the warm waters. Around 1994, Earth Island Institute and Activists began the search for a rehabilitation place for me before the plan to introduce me into the wild again. The Free Willy Foundation was started and it raised over $4 million. In 1995, The foundation announced that I was to be moved to a $7.3 million rehabilitation tank at Oregon Coastal Aquarium.
Reino Adventura gave me up to the foundation and I was sent to the Oregon Coastal Aquarium in 1996. I was only 7,720 lbs when I arrived and got to roam my new tank. It so much more spaced and had more depth. It wasn't long before guests go to witness me there. I was always curious and dependent on people so I even approached the glass to watch them around me. During my stay there, I gained over 1,000 lbs and my Skin Disease disappeared. After a few months, Staff began to teach me how to catch live fish, which I aced. In 1998, I was deemed Healthy and ready to be reintroduced to the Wild. The HSUS (or Humane Society of the United States) became a sponsor
On September 9, I was lifted from my tank and transported by a US Airforce C-17 transport jet from Newport directly to Klettsvik Bay in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland. I arrived and was placed in my own Sea Pen. The Pen was more like a cage actually. I was surrounded by nets. There was no treatment to the water so if any harmful pathogens entered my waters - I would be sick. The Pen was even smaller than my tank at the Oregon Coastal Aquarium or even SeaWorld's tanks.
(SEE FOR YOURSELF)
I was still dependent on humans so I was fed pre-killed fish and asked to do behaviors for my enrichment. I remained in the sea pen until 2000, when I was fitted for a tracking device and given the freedom to go on Sea walks - or basically exploring the open ocean. I did get to interact with other Wild Killer Whales however I was rejected and chased away. I continued to be dependent on the boat of humans who I know fed me and keep me simulated. They tried to teach me to be fearful of boats and people by scaring me off or just ignoring me. It was confusing. I still needed for them to care for me but apparently I was ready.
I was full released into the Ocean in 2002 and I traveled over 1,000 miles to Norway, seeking the company of humans. You see, Orcas only travel long distances if we want or need something. Regular Wild Orcas travel for food and even during this era, Main food sources were hard to come by. Anyway, I wanted human attention. It was proven that I liked Humans feeding me than myself catching my own food. In Norway, I got to interact with humans like I wanted. I was so docile that I gave children rides on my back and allowed others to feed me. The Humane Society of the United States and other organizations, as well as the Norwegian Government had to make citizens stop feeding me and leave me alone. I chose to leave once again. For the remaining months in the "wild and free" ocean, I refused to hunt for myself and soon disappeared..."
On December 12, 2003 - Keiko was found dead. The Free Willy Foundation and HSUS announced his death, quoting that, "He [Keiko] died today in the Taknes fjord, Norway, in the company of staff members who have been caring for him there."
Poor Keiko beached himself and died alone, starving and possibly saddened that he would never get the human attention he craved!
According to Keiko's Veterinarian - He died of acute pneumonia. However NO Necropsy was done to confirm this.
Keiko deserved to remain at the Oregon Coastal Aquarium, where he was in good heath and a ambassador for his species. When Keiko was captured, He was barely a year old and barely experinceing the wild. Basically when he was brought into human care, He was humans as his source of food and companionship. Activists and the HSUS did not care if Keiko survived longer in the ocean or not. They only wanted the money.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KEIKO's STORY