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 8 orcas died at SeaWorld, and 20 at facilities around the world, 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.
Answers to all the questions you've ever had about Free Willy / Keiko, the orca who was rescued from captivity and successfully rehabilitated into the wild.
Mark J. Palmer, March 2018
Once again, SeaWorld has failed in its efforts to derail litigation aimed at requiring truthful statements about the lives of orcas in captivity. On Feb. 21, 2018, SeaWorld lost its fourth attempt to have the case “Anderson v SeaWorld” dismissed and avoid adjudication on whether SeaWorld made (and continues to make) false and misleading statements about its orcas to its customers. “Anderson v SeaWorld” challenges SeaWorld’s claims about the health and welfare of their captive orcas.