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New born whale 150 kg and 2 m.




The story of Keiko.



Keiko was born  1977 or 78 in the Atlantic Ocean near Iceland.

He was captured by a fishing boat in 1979 and held in an Icelandic aquarium for four years. 


In 1982 Marineland in Ontario, Canada buys Keiko, and  he becomes a performing animal.

A male whale free in the ocean is 7-9 meters, weight 4-6 ton


Marineland sells Keiko in 1985 to Reino Aventura, an amusement park in Mexico City, for $350,000.


In 1992 Warner Bros. Studios begins filming the movie "Free Willy" on location in Mexico City.  The plot involves a young boy saving a whale, portrayed by Keiko, Keiko is 14 years by this time.



The movie “Free Willy” is a hit at the theatres, especially with millions of school children around the world.   The coverage of Keiko`s unacceptable living conditions in Mexico City, prompts the movie studio, the park and animal protection advocates to find Keiko a new home.


In 1994 Earth Island Institute, an environmental advocacy group for marine wildlife begins the search for a location where Keiko can be brought back to health and trained for potential release to the wild.

Keiko swimming with free whales


The Free Willy Foundation is formed in November with a $4 million donation from Warner Bros., and an anonymous donor.


In 1995 The Mexico City amusement park donates Keiko to the Free Willy/Keiko Foundation.  The foundation announces Keiko will be moved to a new, $7.3 million rehabilitation facility at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Craig McCaw is revealed as the anonymous donors of   $2 million, which helped start the Free Willy/Keiko Foundation.  The Humane Society of the United States also becomes a sponsor


United Parcel Service sponsors in 1996 the airlifting of Keiko to the aquarium on January 7. 


Weighing just 7,720 pounds, Keiko is placed in his new pool and experiences natural sea water for the first time in 14 years.

The Orca Whale is the largest in the Delfin family


Keiko gains more than 1,000 pounds, and by year's end his skin lesions begin to heal. 


Keiko is featured on the cover of Life Magazine and in a popular documentary, The Free Willy Story, on the Discovery Channel.  More than 2 million visitors come to see Keiko in Oregon.


Keiko's staff begins introducing him to live fish in an effort to teach him to hunt for food. 


His skin lesions have all disappeared and he is determined to be in excellent health. 


He catches and eats his first live fish in August.

Free wheals livs for 60-70 years, Keiko was 25 when he died


By June, Keiko weighs 9,620 pounds.  The staff of the Free Willy/Keiko Foundation sets a goal of releasing Keiko into a pen in the North Atlantic by 1998. 


After an intensive search and negotiations with foreign governments the decision is made to reintroduce Keiko to the wild in Iceland.


In 1998 a medical panel determines that Keiko is healthy and exhibiting the normal behaviour patterns of a killer whale.  Keiko is eating live steelhead weighing from three to 12 pounds each, comprising up to half of his daily intake of food. 


On September 9, Keiko is lifted from his tank and transported by a US Air force C-17 transport jet from Newport directly to Klettsvik Bay in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland.

Halsa, Norway


During his first full year back in his native Icelandic waters, Keiko, now under the day-to-day care of the Ocean Futures Society, continues training to prepare him for his potential reintroduction to the wild. 


An essential component of his program is moving his attention from above to below the surface of the water.  In doing so, Keiko depends less on his human caretakers and develops greater interest in his natural environment.


On his first day out of the netted bay pen in the summer of 2002, Keiko leaves the tracking boat and begins spending considerable time in the company of whales.   He is monitored in and around groups of wild whales for the next three weeks.  


He then begins an epic journey covering nearly 1000 miles across the North Atlantic, by the Faeroe Islands, and to the coast of Norway.

From one of the children visiting Keiko


The first observations of Keiko in Norway document that he is in excellent physical condition.  Keiko has been on his own for almost 60 days without food from humans. 

His lead veterinarian, and a variety of other orca scientists, comes to the conclusion that Keiko has successfully fed himself in the wild, a major milestone in his journey to the wild.

Keiko follows a fishing boat inside a Norwegian fjord in the Halsa Community.  

The Community is on the West coast of Norwaw about 200km South of Trondheim.   He is an instant hit there with people coming from throughout Europe. 

Thousand of visitors come to see the friendly whale.   The Project staff work closely with the Norwegian government to put in place regulations to keep people from swimming with, feeding or getting too close to Keiko.

Meanwhile, the Craig McCaw Foundation and Ocean Futures Society turn over the management of the project to the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and the Humane Society of the US.

In December Keiko is walked to the Taknes bay staff continues to work with and feed Keiko.

In memory of Keiko, Halsa, Norway
  For the first time ever, Keiko is in an area where he can come and go as he chooses.  The Free Willy Keiko Foundation and the Humane Society of the US continue to care for Keiko while allowing his historic journey to the wild to move ahead.

The Norwegian government gives its full support to the continued effort to give Keiko the chance to return to the wild.

December 12, 2003 -- The Free Willy Keiko Foundation and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reported that Keiko, the orca whale, died today in the Taknes fjord, Norway, in the company of staff members who have been caring for him there.

Keiko's veterinarian believes that acute pneumonia is the most likely cause of death, though he also cited that Keiko was the second oldest male orca whale ever to have been in captivity.

Keiko inspired millions of children to get involved in following his amazing odyssey and helping other whales.  Keiko's journey also inspired a massive educational effort around the world and formed the basis for several scientific studies. 

Thousands of people travelled to Norway in the past year to see Keiko, continuing his legacy as the most famous whale in the world.


There is a memorial site for Keiko set up by the locals in Halsa, Norway, where the famous whale spent the last year of his life.


All photos are from Keiko Norge.




SheLuvz2Fly says:
Great blog!!
Posted on: Feb 28, 2008
boicot says:
Good memories!i worked in Reino Aventura when i was a teenager
Posted on: Jan 31, 2008
mellemel8 says:
hmmmmm whale sandwich....i miss it :P
Posted on: Jan 20, 2008
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New born whale 150 kg and 2 m.
New born whale 150 kg and 2 m.
A male whale free in the ocean is …
A male whale free in the ocean is…
Keiko swimming with free whales
Keiko swimming with free whales
The Orca Whale is the largest in t…
The Orca Whale is the largest in …
Free wheals livs for 60-70 years, …
Free wheals livs for 60-70 years,…
Halsa, Norway
Halsa, Norway
From one of the children visiting …
From one of the children visiting…
In memory of Keiko, Halsa, Norway
In memory of Keiko, Halsa, Norway
From Free Willy
From "Free Willy"
So heavy and so elegant
So heavy and so elegant
Children swimming with Keiko, Hals…
Children swimming with Keiko, Hal…
12. December 2003.
12. December 2003.
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photo by: tvillingmarit