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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 08:13 GMT 09:13 UK
Free Willy whale offered US home
Keiko in Norway
Keiko became popular with locals in Norway
Keiko the whale, star of the Free Willy films, has been offered a new home in a United States marine park after struggling to adapt to life in the wild.

The whale was released off Iceland in July after a nine-year, $20m (£13m) attempt to release him from captivity.

But his future was thrown into doubt when he turned up in Norway, apparently seeking human company.

The Miami Seaquarium has now applied to the US government for permission to capture and display the whale.

But the Norwegian government would also have to agree to the move.

Keiko turned up in a Norwegian fjord after abandoning a group of wild killer whales, and became so popular with locals that local officials were forced to make it an offence to go within 50m (165 feet) of him.

The Miami Seaquarium said: "Keiko is interacting with people, begging for fish and approaching boats with propellers that could severely harm him."

Animal rights activists say they would be furious if Keiko, who spent more than 20 years in sea parks, returned to captivity.

Keiko the killer whale
The whale spent 23 years in captivity
His handler recently said that Keiko would be likely to be looked after in Norway over the winter.

Keiko is currently in the Skaalvik fjord, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) west of the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

Whale experts thought the creature would not be able to survive a Norwegian winter and might have to be put down.

But locals pleaded for him to stay to help boost tourism after fans flocked to see him.

His handler, Canadian Colin Baird, said he was looking for a quiet fjord "where he can have contact with other killer whales".

See also:

04 Sep 02 | Europe
03 Sep 02 | Film
03 Mar 00 | Entertainment
07 Aug 02 | Film
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