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Friday, 8 November, 2002, 10:30 GMT
Keiko welcomed to new home
Keiko, star of the Free Willy films
Keiko managed to avoid publicity on his journey
Keiko the celebrity killer whale - star of the Free Willy films - has arrived at his new winter home in Norway.

He was given a warm welcome by residents of Taknes bay after swimming about six miles alongside a boat from the nearby Skaalvik fjord in Halsa municipality.

Keiko, who has lived most of his 25 years in captivity, made the journey discreetly and managed to avoid a feared publicity blitz.

He had first turned up in western Norway in September following his release from Iceland in July.

Lars Olav Lilleboe, who co-ordinated the operation, said: "It went well - like any other of Keiko's routine exercise swims."

Keiko's team of trainers have spent several years and more than $20m (13m) preparing him for life back in the wild after his appearance in the first Free Willy film in 1993 led to a campaign for his release.

Greeted

They intend to stay close by and feed him in the ice-free bay, where it is believed he stands a greater chance of finding company among killer whales.


We want as few people as possible in the area

Olav Saetre Norwegian Fishery Directorate

He was greeted by his new neighbours bearing a poster with big black letters reading: "Welcome to Taknes, Keiko!"

Public access to the movie star mammal will be limited.

"We want as few people as possible in the area," said Olav Saetre, spokesman for the Norwegian Fishery Directorate.

The bay has been sealed off to boat traffic and the shore will be fenced and decorated with posters about Keiko's life.

Until he is fit to join a killer whale group in the wild, he will be fed by his group of trainers.

Keiko was captured near Iceland as a calf aged about two and sent back to his homeland following a successful campaign for his release.

He has spent most of his life in marine amusements parks in Canada and Mexico.

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