Tobba_Keiko-session“Norway was chaos. The number of tourists the first month was absolutely crazy. People were driving from Germany to the middle of Norway to see him, and on the weekends we had thousands and thousands of people coming. We had to have the police working with us, because people didn’t understand they were not allowed to go swimming with Keiko and pet him. Before I got there, I saw photos from Norway, of children 8-9 years old trying to climb on Keiko’s back. And the parents would just cheer them and go, ‘Good for you! Good for you!’”

– Þorbjörg Valdís Kristjánsdóttir (Tobba) Keiko’s last trainer on his arrival in Norway following a thousand-mile solo journey across the North Atlantic

Keiko’s story has been written by children…

“’Please help Keiko,’ wrote the children in French, Spanish, German, English and other languages from around the world to the film producers at Warner Brothers. And the movement began….

“Hundreds of school groups raised funds with bake sales, walk-a-thons and raffles. One Tampa, Florida elementary school raised $30,000! Before Keiko was even moved to the Oregon Coast Aquarium to improve his health and living conditions, in January 1996, children had contributed $150,000 of millions that would be needed. And as Keiko left Mexico City, children lined up the streets for miles from Reino Aventura to the airport – some weeping in the night, others waving signs of “adios.” Oregonian children greeted his rainy arrival in much the same way.

“As Keiko regained his health in the next two years, hundreds of letters and emails a week continued to pour into the newly-formed Free Willy/Keiko Foundation, set up to handle his care. Cards, pictures and baked goods accompanied their correspondence.

A partial listing of the countries the children represented reads like a United Nations roll-call vote: Argentina, Austria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States…”

Excerpted from United Nations Chronicle (2002)


Continue the Keiko Project:

You can support the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation’s efforts to spread the word about what we really learned from Keiko and try to help others like him by  visiting their website. Your purchase of a Keiko’s Legacy Kit or an Adoption Kit greatly assists our non-profit efforts to help others like Keiko!

Remember 1-800-FOR-WHALES?  Your donation contributes to the continuing educational and advocacy work of the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation and their partner organizations.

The Free Willy- Keiko Foundation

“It’s very clear that orcas are not suited to a life in captivity, that this is a terrible thing to be doing to this incredible whale. Keiko never met his family, and his success was ultimately limited, but I do believe he achieved amazing things given where he came from.” Indeed, a part of Keiko’s enduring legacy, adds Spong, are the restrictions preventing the capture of orcas in many places around the world, where 9 of the 42 remaining in captivity were originally caught. Among them, “captures in Iceland stopped and it’s virtually certain that they won’t start up again.”


Conrad C., 23 | Pretoria, South Africa
The story of Keiko and all that is happening with these whales all around the globe has me hooked for good . I really want to get involved with these animals stopping them being put in captivity and used as entertainment and helping these once in captivity to be set free back into the wild were they belong.
I have never been face to face with these awesome mammals but I can’t stop wanting to be full on involved with them and learning more and more about this amazing animal. I have been reading and studying so much material  on the net about them and also the story of Tilikum has got me thinking about these animals more and more.

If anyone has got an idea of how I can get involved  with these amazing animals
please let me know. Would I be able to get hold of the Keiko the untold story in South Africa?

Audra L.
Thank you for taking a part in the release of “Keiko’s Dream, Keiko’s Legacy.” To show my kind appreciation, I have enclosed several drawings of Keiko that I drew. I hope you like them. God Bless, and keep me posted on what happens next with Keiko’s legacy!

I just finished reading “Freeing Keiko” and was so touched by his story.  It was such a heartfelt legacy, and I am interested in seeing the documentary when it is released.  I was wondering if you had an update on the potential release date and if there was a mailing list I can be added to that might notify me of when it is released.

I especially enjoyed the part of the book where Keiko was seen in Norway swimming in the kelp, and I would love to see some pictures of this.  The book talked about pictures being taken, so I know he was photographed during this time.  The ending of the book was so sad I wanted to stop at the part when he was in Norway, but of course this would not have been the true ending.

Thank you so much for making this documentary and for the lovely music.  It will be awesome to see Keiko in action as the movie will bring to life something the book just could not do.

Still a fan of Keiko’s Legacy….

I first saw Keiko in the 1993 Free Willy movie during my high school years.  For many years, I only knew Keiko by Willy.  After that I did not even know about his rescue as I seldom watched the news or read newspapers.  I was a pretty ignorant child.

Recently, I went on the HSUS website and saw a trailer regarding Keiko because they are trying to save Tillicum, the Orca at the Orlando Sea World that drowned his trainer.  I then started my research regarding Keiko’s rescue.  I now feel ashamed that Keiko’s journey happened during my time but I never knew about it.

Keiko is the best example of a strong animal.  He was destined to come to this world to show people that animals can prove for themselves as well.  He experienced a hard life and at the end he chose such a wonderful place with great sceneries to rest in peace.  Although it was only a short five years in Iceland and Norway, Keiko has proven to us that animals have strong will power to live the way they want.  If they ever want to overpower humans, they can.  Animals are never aggressive towards human.  If they were, they are big enough to kill us during the capturing process.  Wild animals behave aggressively toward humans only when we invade their space and try to harm them.

Keiko is a very powerful orca.  He is powerful enough to trigger millions of people in the world to support his rescue.  No matter where he was, he was welcomed especially by children.  There is something very special about Keiko.  Even as an adult now, I can never forget Keiko.  Every time I think of his passing, I get teary eyed.  He was not only most famous and powerful when he was alive but is still known to be the most famous whale now that he is in peace.  Keiko will always be remembered.  He will always be compared to other captive orcas.  Thanks to all his handlers and supporters, Keiko is finally with his family again in his native water.  I cannot wait to see the documentary, “Keiko The Untold Story.”  I believe this documentary will remind everyone about Keiko and capture the hearts of people who are in the captivity business.  Hopefully, Keiko can help change their minds one day.

I wondered if you would ever consider bringing your show to Canada?  More specifically Victoria, on Vancouver Island.  Living here on an island, our children are familiar with Orcas.  But our Orcas numbers are tragically decreasing here in our home waters.  Keiko’s story has helped to raise awareness of the plight of these magnificent creatures.  And now that he is gone, we must remember him always.  I would love to see our community enjoy your show.  How does the booking process take place?  What would be involved in bringing the show to our schools?

From Annie  |  Austoria, OR
It was with awe that I read the Oregonian article about you and the Keiko documentary.Like you, Keiko evoked strange and passionate feelings in me. When I saw the movie, Free Willy, which was filmed where I live, in Astoria, I could not stop thinking about him. When he got moved to the Newport aquarium, we went to see him many times.Each time, like your experience, Keiko would swim over to me and we would just stare at each other for long periods of time. It was if we could see into each other’s souls. Strangers would comment on how he was staring at me.I have never experienced anything like that.It was as if he knew how deeply I cared for his well-being and how I wanted him to be happy.I just looked at the trailer for your documentary and I cried. I cannot think about him without crying. It is good to know that he touched others as he touched me.

Aussie Tammy  |  Australia
“I’m an aussie who was a member of both the Free Willy Foundation and I followed Keiko’s quest for freedom through his entire journey. I was so sad when I heard of his passing on the news (when it happened) but I applaude everyone for their efforts in setting him free. I’m sure Keiko died happier where he did, than if he had in that small, confined tank. I would LOVE to buy the DVD! Can you please tell me WHERE I can get it as I would love to pass it onto my grandchildren. Not only that, I work at the local school and would like to get it for the kids too.”

“I saw Keiko with my daughter here at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, before he was set free. He came down to where we were, right after we got to the window.. he floated right there looking at us. This incredible feeling came over me, and I started to cry. He was just so beautiful and truly loved humans. We’ll never forget Keiko. RIP Keiko I look forward to seeing this new documentary. Thank you for sharing this.”

Cindy B.
My name is Cindy B., and I have a daughter who is 9 years old, and has been just in love with Keiko, since she was just a baby.  I couldn’t believe the news when I heard it, and the first thing that came to my mind is how am I going to tell my daughter.  After awhile, we heard a rumor, that Keiko would be laid to rest on land, due to people who loved him, could pay their respects.  Is this true, or was Keiko laid to rest in the Ocean.  I would love some information.  Thank you.  The weird thing about this, is for Christmas 03, my daughter asked for a killer whale for Christmas.  My husband and I adopted a whale by the name of  Thalequah and she is from J pod.  J-35 she is.  That shocked her and she loved it.  Thank you!

I have a 7-year-old son that lives for orcas, especially Keiko.  He reads (and owns) anything and everything he can about Keiko and now is patiently awaiting this new documentary to come out.  My questions are: When will it be released and how do we buy it?  Can it be preordered?   Also is there a site where Keiko products can be bought?  He wants a poster or pic of Keiko more than anything but they are hard to find.

Hello – I loved all the Free Willy Movies – and it was heartbreaking to hear of his passing away. Keiko brought a lot of joy to many hearts, including mine.

My name is Jennifer and I am 20 years old. As a little girl I was always inspired by Keiko in his movie “Free Willy”. I was watching my old movies and ran across this movie. So I decided to go online and see what I can find out about getting a video of Keiko. In doing so I came across Keiko’s page. I saw that there is a video called “Keiko’s Dream”. I was just wondering if there is any was someone could get this video for me. I would greatly appreciate having it.
Thank you so so much!!!! It will mean alot to me!!!!