Keiko still needs our help – October 4th 2002

Hello everyone,

This to give you up a brief update on Keiko, and to ask for your help once more. Keiko is fine in most respects, and plans are forming that will take him forward towards his ultimate goal of freedom, but worrisome things are happening also. Since our last update (9/4) Keiko has been given a clean bill of health – by his personal veterinarian, Dr. Lanny Cornell, by local veterinarians working with Dr. Cornell, and by Norwegian animal welfare authorities. Measurements of his body indicated that he arrived in Norwegian waters in great physical condition – he had not lost weight at all and must have gained tremendously in fitness during his long trip from Iceland. There is no question that he has learned to forage for himself, a key ingredient to his ultimate success. Just as relevant to his situation, Keiko has been given a warm welcome by the government of Norway as well as by the community of Halsa. The sentiment that has embraced Keiko brought an 8 year old girl to Halsa to play the theme from Free Willy to Keiko on her harmonica. It was the only tune she knew, and Keiko responded to it as if he was still in the movie. The incident, of course, served also to highlight Keiko’s greatest remaining problem – his attachment to people. Freeing him from that attachment, or finding a balance that works for him, is Keiko’s and the project’s greatest present challenge. Soon, Keiko will be moved from Halsa to a more remote location where he will be free to come and go. Project crew will be on hand to assist Keiko as needed. Our hope remains that Keiko will continue to have the opportunity to pursue his quest towards freedom, and we are enormously thankful to Norway for giving him that chance. Just the same, dangers continue to lurk in the shadows, perhaps especially in the USA.

Yesterday, we learned that the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has turned down a bid from the Miami Seaquarium to capture Keiko and take him back to the USA. This is very good news. Norway had written a GREAT letter in response to the Miami Seaquarium and this probably is what tipped the scales for NFMS. Here
are some highlights from this letter.

”Norway will not make any problems for the project that has been going on since 1999 with the approval of the relevant U.S. authorities. These authorities still supervise the project.” ”In principle we are skeptical to keeping huge animals like whales in captivity.” ”At the moment the whale has a freedom that makes it possible for him to make choices.” ”.. it would be a great step back to put him in an aquarium again.” ”I would like to assure you that the people in Halsa are now very much attached to Keiko, and would not like to see him depart.”

It is not often that we see governments express these kinds of sentiments so openly, and we would like to encourage Norway to hold to these views throughout the next difficult stages of the Keiko project. Nor do we doubt that some factions in Norway would like to see a very different outcome for Keiko than the prospect of living freely in Norwegian waters that is presently being offered. This is where Keiko could use our help, and here is the first thing you can do:

1. Write a letter to Norway thanking the government and people for welcoming Keiko and supporting the efforts to keep him free. Go to and locate a Norwegian embassy or consulate in your country. If this doesn’t work, go to . Do a search for “Norway embassy <country>” to find listings that are appropriate for you. Phone or fax your thanks to Norway for protecting Keiko. Remember that phoning or faxing gets more attention than an email, so please take the time.

You can also send a message directly to the government of Norway. The Ministry of Environment has a message board at The Ministry of Fisheries can be reached via email [email protected]or phone +47 22 24 90 90 or fax +47 22 24 95 85.

The additional concern is that NMFS has not totally dismissed the Miami Seaquarium bid. The language of the letter from NMFS (Gene Nitta, Acting Chief, Permits Division) is disturbing. He does not acknowledge that Keiko is already legally “owned” by the Free Willy Keiko Foundation (FWKF), is already the subject of a permit issued by NMFS, and is under the control of The Humane Society of the US and the FWKF with the concurrence of the government of Norway. Rather, NMFS says “the application you have submitted is premature at this time” and “In the absence of any indication that the Norwegian government is willing to entertain proposals to capture Keiko, NOAA Fisheries is unable to adequately evaluate an application for a permit to import the whale.” This is very dodgy language and clearly indicates that NMFS would be more than willing to entertain proposals to slam Keiko back into a tank, provided only that Norway agrees to consider that as an option.

In our view, Keiko’s position is still tenuous, so we are asking you to also:

2. Write to NMFS expressing support for Keiko and requesting that NMFS recognize that Keiko is already under the legal control of the HSUS and the FWKF. Here is Gene Nitta’s contact info: email [email protected] phone 301-713-2289 , fax 301-713-0376.

Please remember that what happens with Keiko affects the lives of all the captives we care so deeply about. So please, take a few moments of your time and help Keiko NOW.

As ever, we send our best wishes and THANKS to you all,

Paul and Helena (

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