Keiko, the orca star of the hit film Free Willy, took his first âocean walkâ recently to avoid being in the vicinity of the dynamite detonated for harbour construction in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland. Keiko demonstrated that he is ready for this phase of his reintroduction training by following a boat four miles from the harbour mouth off of the coast of the Westman Islands. The walk lasted slightly more than two hours after which Keiko returned to the enclosed bay in Klettsvik Harbor, his home since his arrival in Iceland in September 1998. The ocean walks, where Keiko follows a designated boat out to sea, are designed to allow Keiko to acclimatise to the open ocean environment.
Keiko was captured in Icelandic waters more than 20 years ago at the age of two. Taken to perform in the marine park industry, Keiko was first sent to Canada for a few years and then transported to Mexico City. Languishing in an inadequate facility, Keiko nevertheless became the star of the hit film, Free Willy where more than 1.2 million individuals, mostly children, worldwide learned of his plight and demanded, through an outpouring of letters, emails, drawings and donations that he be set free.