December 27, 2002:
Unna was moved from SeaWorld Orlando to SeaWorld San Antonio earlier this month.
December 7, 2002:
Hudson jumps out of pool
“NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. (CP) – A young killer whale put on quite a show at Marineland when it jumped out of its tank. The killer whale, four-year-old Hudson, is reportedly doing just fine. “He was playing around over at the edge and he just slipped over,” Marineland owner John Holer said Sunday. Holer was out of town when the incident happened on Saturday, but was updated by staff. The incident happened while a company Christmas party was taking place and some employees were watching the whales being fed. One man, who didn’t want to be identified, said staff were feeding the whales when one jumped right out. Holer is chalking it up to kids being kids. “Youngsters like to play,” he said. “We put him in a stretcher and we lifted him up with a crane and put him back in the pool,” Holer said. “And he’s fine.””
St. Catharines Standard
Copyright 2002 The Canadian Press
November 16, 2002:
Keiko finds new home
“From his new home in a tranquil Norwegian bay, Keiko the killer whale has what his friends say is an ideal place to live: peace and quiet, human care and ample opportunity to meet wild orcas. The six-ton orca, who gained fame in the “Free Willy” movies, was led November 7th from the Skaalvik fjord, where he turned up in early September, to the nearby but quieter Taknes Bay.
“Here at last,” said Colin Baird, 36, Keiko’s Canadian trainer. “Welcome to Taknes,” Baird said in Norwegian, reading a sign painted by some of the 10 residents who turned out to welcome their new neighbor. They also painted an orca lying on its back. Baird and Norwegian fishery officials spent weeks seeking the perfect winter home for the orca before settling on the bay, which is just six miles away. Baird said the new location is ice-free, has plenty of fish, is along orca migration routes and is more remote – something they hope will reduce crowds of admirers. Keiko’s keepers kept the move secret until the last minute, hoping to avoid the publicity that has surrounded Keiko since his arrival in the Scandinavian nation of 4.5 million people.
The 35-foot-long orca swam alongside a blue boat stacked with boxes of frozen herring for the 90-minute trip. Occasionally darting beneath the boat, Keiko waved his distinctly curved dorsal fin, responded to hand signals from a trainer and snapped up fish that were thrown to him, often opening his mouth wide to demand more. Keiko’s stardom in the three films about a boy who befriends a whale sparked a more than $20 million campaign to rescue the then-ailing orca from a Mexico City aquarium after 23 years in captivity. Keiko was rehabilitated at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, then airlifted to Iceland in 1998, where he was captured at the age of two. His handlers taught him to catch live fish and released him. He swam straight for Norway – an 870-mile trek that seemed to be a search for human companionship.
In the Norwegian fjord, he allowed fans to pet and play with him. some even crawled on his back. He became such an attraction, animal protection authorities imposed a ban on approaching him. “Keiko has had an amazing odyssey,” said Paul G. Irwin, president of the Humane Society of the United States, a project backer. “When somebody says this creature can never be released, I say it isn’t so. Keiko is free to go. … He is at liberty to do as he chooses.” Authorities in this Scandinavian nation of 4.5 million people also have endorsed the project, as long as Keiko is not penned in or captured, does not come in conflict with other maritime interests and is not commercially exploited. Norway is the only country that commercially hunts whales, but the hunt is limited to minke whales. Killer whales are a protected species. Keiko’s trainers, who will live nearby in a house fixed up for them by a local farmer, will lay out buoys to mark his area in the bay, which has a tiny island in the middle.”
Doug Mellgren, Associated Press
October 18, 2002:
Caretakers find winter home with ‘choices’ for Keiko
“A grassy slope descends to a pebble-filled beach that spills into the clear, calm, deep water of Taknes Bay, Norway. Ahhh. Home sweet orca home. After scouring the country’s coast in search of winter digs for Keiko the killer whale, his caretakers said Tuesday that next week they will move the “Free Willy” star to the scenic bay, about six miles from where he now swims. Keepers will feed Keiko, but he will be free to roam the bay, neighboring fjords — even out to sea. He will be equipped with satellite and VHF tracking devices, at least through winter. “This is not about having him stay there forever,” said David Phillips, founder of the San Francisco-based Free Willy Keiko Foundation. “This is about giving him choices.”
Keepers released Keiko from a sea pen in Iceland this summer and the long-captive orca swam nearly 900 miles to Norway. There, he followed a fishing boat into Skaalvik fjord, where residents in the village of Halsa greeted the famous whale with open arms. In the weeks since, those charged with his care had to reconsider the next step in their unique effort to transform the long-captive show animal into a whale capable of rejoining an orca society. A couple of things were clear: They would have to feed him, at least for a while longer. And they wanted to distance him from the human contact he had come to know in Halsa, where thousands of Norwegians have traveled to get a look at the whale. “We wanted to be closer to wild whales, further from people, protected from winter storms and ice, and away from any potential conflicts with fish farms or boat traffic,” Phillips said. “This will give us a good place to operate from.” The site comes equipped with a boat, dock and house where keepers can live. The home was in disrepair, but nearby residents so wanted the whale and keepers to stay, they organized a fix-up day to make the dwelling livable.
Fishermen will provide a steady source of herring for Keiko, and residents have offered the staff use of a boat. “They were very taken by the whole Keiko thing,” Phillips said. “But they also know this is a reintroduction effort. In January, maybe before, we’ll take him out and put him in with wild whales again and be ready to continue the odyssey.” Migrating orcas arrive each year like clockwork, a local fisherman says. “When asked, ‘When do orcas come around here?’ he said, ‘Jan. 19 every year. Jan. 19, that’s when they come,’ ” Phillips said, recalling the query. Keepers have marked their calendars. The concentration isn’t as dense as it is in Norway’s far north, where keepers had hoped to place Keiko. “But there was much more potential for conflict and not the strength of support from the local community, like we had here,” Phillips said. “So it became a pretty easy choice.” Norwegian officials said they will not allow Keiko to be caught or commercially exploited.
Last month, a Florida marine park asked the U.S. government for permission to capture Keiko and display him. But Norway, which has jurisdiction, said no. Keiko, about 25, was captured off Iceland in 1979 and sold into captivity. After starring in the 1993 film, “Free Willy,” the effort to return the affable black and white behemoth to the sea ensued. He lived at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport from January 1996 to September 1998, where keepers restored his flagging health.”
Katy Muldoon, Portland Oregonian
October 12, 2002:
Rumours that this summer two young orcas were captured in the Sea of Okhotsk, Russia, have been shown as not correct. It was a deliberately false information to obtain an export permit. Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium, who has shown interest in getting orcas from Russia, denied any involvement with this story. Meanwhile legal actions have been filed from an official body in Japan to prevent Port of Nagoya Aquarium from purchasing any orcas.
In contrast to previous information, Ku from Taiji Whaling Museum has not yet been moved to Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium.
September 3, 2002:
Nearly 60 days after Keiko left his sea pen in Iceland this summer as part of a historic and unprecedented effort to reintroduce him to the wild, visual observations made in Norwegian waters confirm that he is in excellent health. During the past three days, Keiko Project staff obtained close-range photos and video documenting Keiko’s physical condition. Dr. Lanny Cornell, Keiko’s lead veterinarian and an expert with more than 30 years of experience with orca whales stated: “I have reviewed the photos just taken of Keiko, and it is clear to me that Keiko is fit and thriving. After 60 days at sea and traveling more than one thousand miles, Keiko is strong and does not appear to have lost any weight whatsoever. There can no longer be any doubt that Keiko has foraged successfully.” Keiko’s crossing of the North Atlantic began on July 29th, when he was last seen in the company of a group of wild whales and began swimming in an easterly direction away from Iceland. Over the next several weeks he covered more than 1,000 miles. A satellite tag continues to provide data on his location and has also recorded his frequent dives to depths greater than 50 meters.
Throughout the past 60 days, project staff has continued to monitor both his position and diving behavior as well as to seek opportunities to obtain visual observations of Keiko. Yesterday, however, Keiko’s reintroduction to the wild suffered a setback when he followed a Norwegian fishing vessel and entered a small harbor in Norway. Keiko project staff, who have been in Norway monitoring his VHF signal since his approach to the coast, were able to locate Keiko, but not before he had interacted with several vessels and members of the public, some of whom evidently provided food to him and entered the water. Project staff remain on site in Norway to monitor Keiko’s status and educate people about the project’s goals. Dave Phillips, Director of the Free Willy Keiko Foundation, stated: “By all accounts, Keiko has made phenomenal progress this year. He’s proving he has the skills to be a wild whale, but it is critical that he not be encouraged to come to boats or people.” He continued: “We hope the public interactions are temporary and that Keiko is able to return to the open sea.” Paul Irwin, President of the Humane Society of the US, the organization playing a lead role in the operations of the Keiko Project, stated: “We are appealing to all boaters to avoid Keiko and give him all the space he needs to be fully self-sufficient.” He continued: “Our efforts in moving Keiko from captivity to the wild have always been directed by Keiko’s best interests. We will continue to do exactly what is best for him.”
For more background and a map of Keiko’s travels, go to Orca Network.
September 3, 2002:
Inouk at Marineland Antibes, France, is okay again. He had swallowed his bucket’s lid a week ago but regurgitated it later and played with it for some time.
August 25, 2002:
Katina at SeaWorld Orlando gave birth to her fifth calf at approximately 11:53 a.m., following a one hour labor. The 350 pound male calf began nursing within hours and developed strong eating habits immediately. Over the first month, the calf has gained weight and, with his mother’s assistance, is learning how to stop while swimming. He continues to bond with his mother and other siblings, and is starting to explore different social groups.
August 13, 2002:
Algonquin died at Marineland Canada of a twisted intestine, according to the necropsy. Algonquin was less than 3 years old. His death marks the fifth loss of an offspring for his mother Nootka 5. In April 1992, her young male calf Splash was send to SeaWorld California, where he is still alive. In 1998 she had a calf that died after only 11 days. In 2000, her 4 year old daughter Malik died. And on top of that, she had a miscarriage last winter. This leaves her with her last remaining daughter Neocia, born in 1992. Quite a traumatic time, considering that the bonds between an orca mother and her offspring are among the strongest of all living beings.
August 12, 2002:
Keiko is making huge progress towards ultimate freedom. The Humane Society of the US (HSUS, contact Nick Braden, 301-258-3072) says Keiko’s most recent satellite tag contact shows that since July 17 he has traveled over 300 miles from his Iceland pen, to about 100 miles north of the Faroe Islands. Earlier, Keiko had been with a large pod of orcas and though no visual sighting of Keiko has occurred for several days, he is believed to remain in the company of wild orcas. Scientists are “pretty confident” that Keiko is eating on his own or in cooperation with wild orcas in order to keep up the energy needed to move at least 50 – 100 miles per day, as the tag data show. Earlier reports from a radio tag now out of range indicated that Keiko was diving over 100 meters to a depth needed to help corral herring, the typical diet of North Atlantic orcas.
Keiko is now in an area that is “teeming with marine life,” including abundant herring schools. “Stunning” said Ken Balcomb, founder and director of the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island. Balcomb helped spark the Keiko reintroduction effort in 1993, along with HSUS and several other groups and individuals. “I always knew he could do it,” said Balcomb. “We’re pleased to see Keiko demonstrate once and for all that a long-term captive orca can regain the strength needed to rejoin its free-ranging family,” said Howard Garrett, president of Orca Network. For the past six years, Garrett has directed the Lolita Project, a campaign to return the last surviving captive from Washington’s Southern Resident orca community to her home and family. “Keiko’s fantastic leap to freedom shoots down the marine park industry’s myth that reintroductions won’t succeed,” said Garrett.
The next candidate for release, with fewer complications and a far better chance of success, is Lolita, (aka Tokitae) now held captive in a substandard tank in Miami. Keiko showed promise of remaining out to sea on his first excursion this year, beginning July 8. He approached and interacted with wild whales for five days on that occasion, then returned briefly to his net pen. On July 17 Keiko left for the last time and began trailing a few hundred meters behind a pod of orcas, much like A73 (Springer) trailed behind members her extended family for about two days before fully joining them. Springer surprised the scientific community with the swiftness of her reintegration into her family pod, and now Keiko is showing he has what it takes to resume his place as a member of his pod.
“There is no remaining argument for keeping Lolita trapped in a tiny concrete display pool. It’s her turn next,” said Garrett. For more background and a map of Keiko’s travels, go to Orca Network.
August 8, 2002:
Killer-whale trainer suffers broken arm in SeaWorld incident.
August 6, 2002
A SeaWorld trainer was hospitalized and recovering from a broken arm after an incident at Shamu Stadium on Wednesday. The 28-year-old woman, whose name was not released, was doing poolside training with whales Splash, a 12-year-old male, and Orkid, a 13-year-old female. “She was playing with the whales, talking to them,” said SeaWorld spokeswoman Darla Davis. “The next thing we know, as it appears from the video, she was pulled into the water.” The park has its own video from a pool camera, and it also reviewed a video taken by a visitor who was recording his children nearby. Park officials said the trainer swam out of the water on her own. She was taken to a local hospital, where a pin was put in her arm. Doctors also are monitoring scrapes for possible infection. The trainer has worked at SeaWorld for six years. She started working as a killer-whale trainer last year, Davis said. Neither whale has a record of aggressive behavior. Both continue to perform, but trainers will not get in the water with them until an investigation is complete, Davis said. SeaWorld’s last incident involving a whale and trainer was in June 1999, when Kasatka, a female whale, showed provocative behavior toward a male trainer during a show. The trainer left the water and no one was hurt, according to park records. “These are large animals, 5,000 pounds,” Davis said. “Trainers are respectful of that.”
Copyright 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
August 4, 2002:
Ku at the Taiji Whaling Museum in Japan has been sold to the new Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium and will be moved there this fall. Around the same time the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium plans to import 2 wild caught Russian orcas (more about that further down).
August 2, 2002:
Press Release by the Wild Earth Foundation (WEF) and Earth Island Institute (EII)
“The request to export the orca whale Kshamenk from Argentina to Six Flags World of Adventure in the US was denied by the Argentinian CITES authority Mrs. Victoria Lichtschein. While Keiko -the star of Free Willy- makes progress in his way to freedom in Iceland, in Argentina the national authorities said NO to Kshamenk’s export to an amusement park in the US. The Wild Earth Foundation (WEF) and Earth Island Institute (EII) have submitted to the Argentinian authorities an advance letter of intent to hopefully rehab and release the orca into his native waters. For eight months a large group of environmental organizations and scientists have been working to block the orca’s transfer into US and to get him released in Argentinian waters. Finally on July the 29, Mrs Victoria Lichtschein, Director of wild fauna of the Argentine nation and CITES authority denied to the oceanarium Mundo Marino the authorization to export Kshamenk. “After months we were able to win this important argument to the cetacean’s captivity industry, closing the door to the trading of wild borned orca whales” said Mark Berman, from the International Marine Mammal Project of EII. “The decision adopted by Mrs Victoria Lichtschein from CITES Argentina is exemplary, it sets an important precedent to avoid the trading of wild animals whose origin’s legallity is doubtful” stated Gabriela Bellazzi, President of Wild Earth Foundation. Now the organizations face a new and big challenge: to free Kshamenk in the Argentinian sea.”
Note: That leaves poor Shouka as a solitary whale at Six Flags Ohio!
July 15, 2002:
Springer aka A73, a two year old female of the Northern Resident orca population, who had been captured on June 13th to reunite her with her pod, is back free in her native waters. Springer was orphaned last year when her mother died and got separated from her pod. Last winter she showed up near the Vashon ferry landing and hung around there since. After many discussions about her future NFMS finally decided to capture her and reunite her with her family. Find out more about her at Orca Network or KING5 TV.
July 12, 2002:
The Russian government is offering hunters the chance to capture and sell killer whales into captivity for $1m (£660,000) a head. It has granted permission for 10 orcas to be sold, possibly to Japan’s new Port Nagoya Public Aquarium, Canada or the United States. For the residents of the traditional fishing communities along Russia’s sparsely populated coastline bordering the Sea of Okhotsk the prospect of a multimillion-dollar harvest in live orcas is welcome. Crews are already in place as of July 6th to catch two orcas. But the British-based Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) fears the licences will drive the species to the brink of extinction. “We are very alarmed orcas may soon be targeted in Russian waters and the area will become a long-term regular source of the animals for the captivity industry with disastrous consequences,” Cathy Williamson, captivity campaigner for the WDCS, said. Demand for the creatures in aquariums and theme parks has heavily reduced many populations of orca whales around the world.
No orcas have been captured since 1997 and with the life expectancy of the mammals considerably reduced in captivity replacements are needed. The WDCS said that of the 134 killer whales captured in the wild since 1961 and displayed in marine parks and aquariums, only 23 were still alive. Many died before their early twenties. In the wild, they could expect to live 80 years or more. One is being “retrained” off Iceland in an effort to return it to the sea. The WDCS says the captivity industry has been forced to trawl the world, hunting killer whale populations. The group is encouraging people to write letters of protest to the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. A letter signed by more than 25 international orca scientists has already been presented to Russian authorities, asking them to stop the captures and warning of the possible consequences of taking individuals from populations about which very little is known.
“The orca population off eastern Russia has been unexploited since Soviet whalers took 300 some decades ago,” Rich Hoyt, co-director of the Far East Russia Orca Project, said. “They have never been studied here. This is no time to start capturing them, disrupting the families and the social structure. This is bad news for Russian orcas, for marine conservation and for marine tourism to Russia.” Orcas are intensely social and live in small, tightly bonded family groups, or pods, that stay together for life. Ms Williamson, of the WDCS, said: “We believe of all the whales and dolphins captured and put into captivity, orcas are probably the most unsuited because they are such large animals and belong to strong family groups. “Each individual is important to a pod as a whole and to every other individual within that group. They are intensely social animals, yet in captivity family ties are ignored. “Calves are routinely separated from their mothers at a tender age and blood-bonds are replaced with forced associations with orcas from different pods and oceans, which can lead to aggression or self-harm.” These predatory animals, which travel up to 100 miles a day in the wild, exist in pools that can be just 14.6 metres (48ft) across and 3.7 metres (12ft) deep. “Any animals targeted are likely to suffer from stress and potential harm, both psychologically and physically, through capture and log distance transportation to a display location,” Ms Williamson added. “Russia already captures Black Sea bottle-nosed dolphins and beluga whales for the captivity industry, which are exported all over the world and this extra step would be a great bonus for some people there. But, in the long run, it could be a very sad loss for the world.”
July 11, 2002:
A little while ago Marineland Canada declared that the assumed pregnancy of Nootka 5 was just a false alarm. Now it turned out that last winter she had a miscarriage instead. Another example of Marineland Canada’s misinformation policy.
May 29, 2002:
News report regarding the cause of Winnie’s death at SeaWorld Texas on April, 11.
SeaWorld San Antonio officials believe the death was caused by coins, tile and other objects the orca had swallowed years ago at a marine park overseas. Winnie had lived at the Windsor Safari Park in Windsor, England, for 13 years. A necropsy performed by SeaWorld and independent pathologists shortly after the whale died revealed it had ingested pieces of tile and British coins, along with nuts, bolts and other small items that made up a roughly 12-pound mass of objects that blocked her upper gastrointestinal tract. The blockage prevented absorption of nutrients from her food, causing an electrolyte imbalance that made her too sick to respond to antibiotics, park officials said. The 4,200-pound whale, originally captured near Iceland, shared a tank with dolphins at Windsor Safari Park, which closed in 1992 amid financial troubles. Animal activists cheered closure of the park. When Winnie was sold to SeaWorld and flown to its former park in Aurora, Ohio, in 1991, she was believed to be one of the last killer whales still in captivity in England at the time. Dudley Wigdahl, vice president of zoological operations at SeaWorld San Antonio, described Windsor Safari Park as a small, antiquated marine park. He said he believes the foreign objects were coins people had thrown into the water, and broken ceramic tiles that had lined Winnie’s tank. The nature of her death underscores the need to respect nature, because animals often mistake plastic bags and other refuse for food, Wigdahl said. To prevent similar tragedies, SeaWorld has divers check its tanks for foreign objects at the end of each day, park officials said.
May 27, 2002:
Apparently again it’s NOT for real: the Miami Seaquarium announced in October 2001 to build a complete new facility which would give their female orca Lolita finally somewhat more space than the present, ridiculous small pool. There was also rumour that, depending on the expansion, they would try to acquire male orca Bingo from Kamogawa Sea World, Japan, as a tank mate for Lolita following the completion of the tank in 2003. BUT, in January 2002 they admitted that they don’t have the cash to build a new tank. And there was no hole in the ground on May 12th when friends visited the area!
May 21, 2002:
Female juvenile Shouka of Marineland Antibes, France, arrived Monday morning at Six Flags Ohio. Six Flags has also been granted a permit to import young male Kshamenk of Mundo Marino, Argentina. That will end the display of captive orcas in Argentina. For Kshamenk it will probably be an improvement over his current situation since he is in quite bad shape because of an inefficient cooling system at Mundo Marino. For Shouka, it’s a different story. She is now separated from her mother Sharkan and her siblings Inouk and Wikie. She was also very close to her father Kim 2. Hopefully both she and her family will make it through this difficult change.
May 3, 2002:
After an 18 month gestation, Takara at SeaWorld San Diego gave birth to her first calf at approximately 8:30 p.m., following a two-hour labor. Takara was the second female orca at SWSD that had been artificially inseminated using semen from Tilikum (SeaWorld Orlando). Takara’s mother Kasatka, who was the first artificially inseminated whale, was supervising the birth of her first grandchild. The female calf is estimated to weigh between 300 to 350 pounds and measure between 6 and 7 feet.
April 11, 2002:
Winnie died at SeaWorld San Antonio after more than 24 years in captivity. In mid-March, trainers noticed inattentiveness in Winnie’s behaviour. Veterinarians began administering antibiotics after blood samples showed a high white-cell count, often a telltale sign of an infection. The 4,200-pound, 16-foot whale did not respond to treatment. Winnie was captured off Iceland in October 1977, together with five other whales, all of whom have died already. Among them were Kona 2 and Kandu 5 of SeaWorld, who died in 1987 and 1989, respectively. Hoi Wai, who died five years ago at Ocean Park Hongkong, was also in that capture. Winnie had been at Harderwijck Dolfinarium, The Netherlands, until March 1978. Then she was at Windsor Safari Park, England, until October 1991 before SeaWorld acquired her.