Keiko was the real-life orca whale star of the hit movie, Free Willy. He was living in very poor conditions in a small tank in Mexico City. Free Willy moviemakers, Warner Brothers, approached us to lead the historic effort to help rescue Keiko.
We formed the Free Willy–Keiko Foundation to spearhead Keiko’s rescue. We built a state-of-the-art rescue and rehabilitation facility at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon, where Keiko was flown to bring him back to health. Once healthy, Keiko was then flown to a large ocean sea pen in his home waters of Iceland. There, he eventually left his pen and swam in the open Atlantic Ocean, often accompanied by wild whales. Keiko was the first captive orca whale ever returned to his home waters, a historic first. He lived out his life free of the stresses and dangers of life in a concrete tank. We continue to tell Keiko’s real-life story and how the retirement, rescue, and possible release or orcas and dolphins can work.
The whale captivity industry has steadfastly blocked all efforts to allow the retirement and potential release of any captive dolphins or whales. They fail to mention their own refusal to help Keiko when he was sick in Mexico, or how 17 captive orcas died during the time Keiko was rehabbed and released. Other captive orcas and dolphins may be candidates for rehab and release. We’re keeping Keiko’s legacy alive to help guide future efforts.
Mark J. Palmer, May 2017
More than 200 men, women and children (and one dog) turned out for the annual Empty the Tanks demonstration in London. I happened to be in London, and joined the boisterous throng in our march from Cavendish Square to Marble Arch, moving along one of London’s busiest shopping districts on aSaturday.
We even (surprisingly for London) got a bit of sun between the clouds.
Danielle Miller, March 2017
Since the release of Blackfish, the 2013 documentary that sparked worldwide debate surrounding forced orca breeding and captivity, aquariums around the world have faced mounting pressure to exercise more humane and sustainable practices within their park walls. Just last year, Seaworld’s pledge to cease its captive orca breeding program was a significant step in the right direction.
SeaWorld adopted the breeding ban after the California Coastal Commission, with the support of Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project, required a breeding ban as part of a permit SeaWorld San Diego requested for expansion of their orca tank. SeaWorld dropped the permit proposal and sued the Coastal Commission, but eventually gave in, avoiding IMMP’s intervention in the lawsuit, pledging to ban breeding in all of their parks nationwide.
Keiko's amazing odyssey from a cramped tank in Mexico to his home waters in Iceland.Watch
Photographs and information about Keiko, a booklet on the history and habitat of orcas, a Mystical Whale Pendant replica of the one worn by Jesse in "Free Willy 2," a full-color orca poster, a personalized orca adoption certificate, and a special photo of Keiko in Norway.Order Here
Keiko was given a chance that no other captive orca has ever had . . . the chance to go back to his original home waters. Visit the documentary website at www.keikotheuntoldstory.comWatch