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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 09:25 GMT 10:25 UK
Free Willy whale 'thriving'
Keiko
Keiko became a star after appearing in 1993's Free Willy
Keiko the whale, who found fame in the hit film Free Willy, is adjusting well to life in the wild after years in captivity, according to scientists.

Experts say that he is now living with a school of killer whales off the south coast of Iceland.

"We are very excited and optimistic about Keiko's chances of surviving in the wild," said a spokesman for the Ocean Futures Society which is monitoring the creature's progress.

Keiko was captured in Iceland over 20 years ago and spent much of his life performing in marine parks throughout Canada and Mexico.

However, it was not until he appeared in the hit film Free Willy in 1993 that people began campaigning for his release.

Keiko has become more interested in the ocean and other orcas than human beings.

Ocean Futures Society

The film focused on a young boy's attempts to return a captured killer whale to the wild, after he found out the fate his owners had in store for him.

Keiko, 25 was returned to Iceland in 1998 and spent four years in a sea pen being trained in preparation for his return to the wild.

His trainers took him to an open ocean area inhabited by killer whales in early July, but he returned to his pen after only four days.

However, they returned him to the wild on 17 July, and this time he has remained in the open sea.
Keiko
Keiko has been living in Iceland since 1998

"Keiko has become more interested in the ocean and other orcas than human beings. That is a very important factor for him returning to the wild," the Ocean Futures Society explained.

He is being monitored by the Society by means of two tracking devices attached to his fin.

"We cannot be sure if he is doing all right, but we follow his movements closely. We have to wait to find out if he can learn to hunt for food himself."

See also:

10 Sep 98 | Entertainment
04 Sep 98 | Americas
17 Sep 99 | Entertainment
03 Mar 00 | Entertainment
02 Mar 00 | Entertainment
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