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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Keiko settles in Norway
Keiko in Norway
Keiko was released from captivity in July
Keiko the killer whale, star of the movie Free Willy, has found a new home for the winter in Norway after a battle over his immediate future.

Keiko, who turned up in western Norway in September after his release from Iceland in July, will spend the next few months in the ice-free Korsnes fjord.

Norway's Fishery Directorate said the whale would soon be moved six miles north east from the Skaalvik fjord where he has spent the last six weeks.

Both fjords are in the Norwegian municipality of Halsa, which has fought hard to keep the former movie star from other municipalities seeking a new tourist attraction.

Lars Olav Lilleboe, Halsa's Keiko coordinator said his community was very pleased at the decision.

"We are incredibly happy. We have won the Keiko battle," said Mr Lilleboe.

As well as the local wrangle over the whale's future, Norwegian authorities have been in conflict with American organisations.

Norway has remained adamant that it will not allow Keiko to be sent to the US, following the Miami Seaquarium's application to the US Government to take him to the marine park.

With Keiko's winter home settled, Norway's Fishery Directorate said it was committed to providing a safe environment for the whale.

In the fjord, he will not be disturbed by local fish farms or boat traffic and he will be free to swim off at any time.

But he will continue to be traced by satellite, as he has been since leaving Iceland.

In Norway, keeping track of Keiko could prove an important issue since it is only nation in the world that hunts whales commercially.

Campaign

But Keiko is unlikely to go far as he has proved his liking for human company.

Since arriving in Norway, he has stuck close to a boat from which his handlers feed him herring.

He also delighted locals by putting on a display for children, and thousands of people from the region have come to see him.

Keiko the killer whale
Three Free Willy movies were made during the 1990s

However, pictures of Keiko surrounded by people have reignited concerns that he may never be able to find independence in the wild after 23 years in captivity.

Millions of dollars have been spent to prepare Keiko for life back in the sea after 1993's Free Willy prompted a campaign for his release.

Keiko was captured near Iceland as a calf aged about two and performed in marine amusement parks in Canada and Mexico for almost 20 years.

He was returned to Iceland in 1998 after people saw him as the captive whale in Free Willy. Male orcas can live about 50 years.

See also:

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07 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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