List of Captive Orcas - Individual Orcas - Keiko

Keiko

Keiko (1976 – December 12, 2003) was an orca who starred in the first of three Free Willy movies. Keiko died on December 12, 2003 after beaching himself during the night, pneumonia was later determined as the probable cause of death. Keiko was captured near Iceland in 1979 and sold to the Icelandic aquarium in Hafnarfjörður. Three years later, he was sold to Marineland Canada, where he first started performing for the public and developed skin lesions indicative of poor health. He was then sold to Reino Aventura (now named Six Flags Mexico), an amusement park in Mexico City, in 1985. He was the star of the movie Free Willy in 1993.

The publicity from his role in Free Willy led to an effort by Warner Brothers Studio to find him a better home. Donations from the studio and Craig McCaw led to the establishment of the Free Willy Keiko Foundation in February 1995. With donations from the foundation and millions of school children, the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon spent over US $7 million to construct facilities to return him to health with the hope of returning him to the wild. He was airlifted by UPS to his new home on January 7, 1996, with a length of 24 feet (7.3 m) and weighing 3,500 kilograms (7,700 lb). During his years in Oregon, he gained over a ton in weight.

On September 9, 1998, he was flown to Klettsvik Bay in Vestmannaeyjar in Iceland, and gradually reintroduced to the wild, returning to the open sea in July 2002. Keiko died on December 13, 2003, at the age of 27 years. Following requests from fans of the orca and Free Willy, the Oregon Coast Aquarium held a memorial service for him on February 20, 2004. 700 people attended the service, at which the aquarium's veterinary chaplain said, "Keiko was not one of our kind, but nonetheless was still one of us." There is a memorial site for Keiko set up by the locals in Halsa, Norway, where the famous orca spent the last year of his life.

Read more about this topic:  List Of Captive Orcas, Individual Orcas

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