Free Willy Keiko – Ambassador for All Captives


1.  Currently there are forty six captive killer whales world wide. Some of them were captured from the ocean, others were born in captivity.

2.  With the goal of releasing these orcas from captivity, many divergent groups have formed , with each disparate group seeking the rescue, rehabilitation and release of an individual orca. For example there are now separate groups in several different countries seeking the release of Morgan, Lolita, Corky, Tilikum, and Kshamenk.

3.  We believe that these global efforts can be better funded and served using Keiko as an Ambassador. To date, Keiko is the only captive orca to have been rehabilitated and released from captivity. From the beginning of his rehabilitation in 1995 to his death in the ocean in 2003 much was learned about what works and what doesn’t, and what is required to rescue, rehabilitate and release an orca to the wild or to retire one from a tank to a seapen.  Keiko’s story, with an emphasis on his rescue, rehabilitation and release, is captured in the documentary KEIKO THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE STAR OF FREE WILLY.  This film is a must see for all interested in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of captive orcas.

4.  The Free Willy-Keiko Foundation (FWKF) was established in 1994 to release to the wild Keiko,  the most famous orca in the world.  For the eight year period of Keiko’s release from captivity until his death, the FWKF orchestrated, planned and managed, Keiko’s care, rehabilitation and return to the wild.  With this experience the FWKF knows better than any other organization the steps required for an orca’s release from captivity, not to mention the logistical support and funding required for such an endeavor.

5.  With the recent release of BLACKFISH, by film maker Gabriela Cowperthwaite, which explores the killing of trainer Dawn Brancheau, by the orca Tilikum at SeaWorld, Orlando, Florida, and David Kirby’s book, Death at SeaWorld, the time is right for the highly profitable sea park industry to focus on the three Rs: RESCUE, REHABILIATE AND RELEASE.

6.  With its vast experience and knowledge, and using Keiko as its ambassador, the FWKF is primed to serve as an umbrella organization and to be the central clearing house for the divergent and separate groups seeking the release of captive orcas.  Towards this end, it would assist with fundraising for and distributing funds to the various groups, with coordinating policy statements and press releases in support of changing the sea park industry’s goals vis a vis orcas, and where possible, assist with legal challenges required for the release of captive orcas.

7 Visually and through firsthand accounts of those directly in charge of Keiko’s care, Keiko The Untold Story of the Star of Free Willy documents how Keiko thrived in his post-captivity period for more than five years, mixed it up with wild orcas, and became the second longest lived male captive orca in history.

  • During his rehabilitation process, Keiko became the most well-traveled orca in the world.
  • Keiko was the largest package the UPS ever delivered.
  • Keiko gained over 3000 lbs. during his rehabilitation at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
  • Keiko was airlifted back home to Iceland by an Air Force Cargo Plane.
  • Keiko became the only captive orca ever to be successfully rehabilitated and released back to his home waters in the North Atlantic, where he thrived for 5 years prior to his death.
  • Keiko’s ordeal was the catalyst to Iceland permanently banning all orca captures, and the ban continues to this day.
  • Keiko inspired millions of children to get involved in following his amazing odyssey and helping other whales.
  • Keiko’s journey inspired a massive educational effort around the world and formed the basis for several scientific studies.
  • New generations of children continue to watch Keiko’s movie Free Willy and become inspired by the whale who played the role of “Willy”.
  • Keiko’s life story is being taught in schools around the world.

Keiko’s beloved fans are changing the world!

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Nowhere in recent history has a captive mammal garnered so much attention as Keiko, the orca star of the 1993 hit film, “Free Willy.” The film’s success, partnered with growing public interest in animals held in captivity, launched a children’s crusade that called for Keiko’s release into the wild. The result: a multimillion-dollar project that spanned four countries, weathered endless controversy and lasted nearly a decade. Through first-hand accounts by the marine mammal experts charged with his care, “Keiko The Untold Story” follows Keiko, his life, his legacy of hope, and the untold story of his extraordinary years in Iceland and Norway.