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Thursday, 2 March, 2000, 12:31 GMT
Storm delays Keiko's move
Keiko the celebrity whale
Waiting for the big day: Keiko playing in his pen
Keiko the celebrity whale will have to wait for his taste of freedom after severe weather delayed his release into a remote bay off Iceland.

The star of the hit movie Free Willy was to have been moved from his pen into a bay off Klettsvik Bay in the Westman Islands, off the south coast of Iceland.

However, Ocean Futures - the organisation working to return Keiko to the wild - has postponed the release until Friday because of a severe winter storm.

The bay, which is cordoned off by a 280-metre net, will offer Keiko an area some 22 times larger than his current pen, which is about the size of a football pitch.

Halfway house

Keiko will be able to enjoy a beach and a natural sea bottom with rocks, fish and other marine creatures for the first time since his return from North America to his native Iceland in 1998.

While roaming the bay the killer whale will again learn to hunt live fish and get used to the marine environment.

The move to Klettsvik Bay is a halfway house before an attempt to return the five-tonne whale to the open sea later this year.

Keiko at Oregon Coast Aquarium
Keiko was moved from an aquarium in Oregon
Keiko was captured off Iceland in 1979 when he was aged two and became the star attraction at a Mexico City amusement park.

He shot to fame in the 1993 film Free Willy, in which a boy befriends a killer whale in a theme park and helps him escape.

His stardom drew attention to poor conditions in the park and triggered an international campaign to save him.

In 1996 he was taken to an aquarium in Newport, Oregon, where he was nursed back to health, and in 1998 he returned to Iceland in a blaze of publicity.

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17 Sep 99 |  Entertainment
Freedom beckons Willy
10 Sep 98 |  Entertainment
Back to the wild for Willy
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