Whale On the Loose

 

Dear Friends of Keiko,

Well, last Thursday was a historic day for Keiko and new things are
happening quickly. At 6:10am on Thursday May 25th, Keiko followed a
boat out of an opening in the bay pen net and took his first cruise out into
the deep open ocean since he was captured more than 20 years ago.

Keiko has come so far from Mexico, and Oregon, and even the early
days in Iceland.

The trainers have been preparing for this event for the better part
of a year -- working with him to follow a specific sound signal from
a particular boat, building up his aerobic conditioning, decreasing
his dependence on humans, and increasing his reliance on live fish.
Still, we were unsure as to how he would respond. Would he bolt? Was
he ready?

He did great! He traveled a total of 8.7 nautical miles in about 2
1/2 hours, in 12-15 knot winds and 5-6 foot seas. For this first
trip we had spotter planes ensure that no whales were around so that
we could assess his abilities without the potential for interaction
with wild whales yet.

Dr. Cornell, Keiko's lead vet, indicated that Keiko's respiration
never rose above normal during his treks, and that he is energetic
and frisky.

In the weeks ahead we expect to be taking him further and putting him
in closer proximity to the pods of wild orcas that frequent the area.
He has a small radiotelemetry device on his dorsal so that we can
track his whereabouts at all times.

It will be incredibly exciting to see how he handles the next
challenges and whether the dream of his full integration back into a
wild orca family becomes a reality.

Check out one of the first photos ever taken of Keiko out in the open ocean!

Cheers,

                                Dave Phillips