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Free Lolita Update 33

Lolita Update #33
May 23, 2001

Dear Friends of Lolita,

Two items for this Free Lolita Update:

1) Keiko is out on the open ocean to go anywhere he wants.

2) J's, K's and part of L pods meet in Haro Strait, Washington


1) FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: (need we say more?)
23 MAY 2001

Ocean Futures
CHARLES VINICK: 354-698-3304

Keiko will inaugurate the summer research season today by swimming out of Klettsvik Bay in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland accompanied by his trainers on board "Daniel", a 13.6 meter vessel that is the "walk" boat this research season. Ocean "walks" will continue throughout the summer, as every effort will be made to allow Keiko to bond with free ranging whales.

In the coming weeks, the research plan is for Keiko to spend as much time as possible at sea, acclimating to the ocean environment in proximity of wild whales. "The intent of this approach is to allow Keiko to be near other orcas for days and even weeks at a time," said Jeff Foster, Director of Research and Field Operations, "so that he can become accustomed to wild whales at his own pace and they can be accustomed to him."

To enable the Ocean Futures Society team to stay at sea near Keiko, the Society has acquired "Daniel", an ocean going rescue style craft that can effectively handle the ocean conditions in the waters around Vestmannaeyjar. In addition, the "Gandi", a 30 meter fishing boat, will be the at sea research and staging platform for the team. "Gandi" will provide living quarters for the crew of the vessels and will serve as the primary tracking vessel to monitor Keiko by VHF radio signals and satellite signals that will be transmitted from the tags that have been fitted to Keiko.

In addition to the research that will be conducted on Keiko's reintroduction throughout the summer, Ocean Futures staff will be engaged in research on the whales native to local waters. These projects include photo identification, genetic sampling, time and depth studies, acoustics and migration studies.

Keiko, which means "Lucky One" in Japanese, was captured in Icelandic waters more than twenty years ago at the age of two. Taken to perform in the marine park industry, Keiko was first sent to Canada for a few years and then transported to Mexico City, Mexico where he became the only killer whale to perform in Mexico or Central America. Languishing in an inadequate facility, Keiko nevertheless became the star of the hit film, "Free Willy" where more than 1.2 million individuals--mostly children--worldwide learned of his plight and demanded, through an outpouring of letters, emails, drawings and donations that he be set free.

"This summer is the culmination of all the hard work on behalf of everyone at Ocean Futures for almost three years since Keiko's return to Icelandic waters. By moving the project out to sea we are giving Keiko the choice to return to the wild", said Hallur Hallson, spokesman for Ocean Futures in Iceland.

Ocean Futures provides the global community with a forum for exploring issues affecting the ocean. Through research and education efforts, Ocean Futures addresses the following critical marine issues: Protecting and Understanding Marine Mammals, Protecting and Improving Water Quality, Protecting and Preserving Coral Reefs, Protecting and Restoring Coastal Habitats, and Promoting Fisheries Management. Ocean Futures is a non-profit organization formed as a result of the merger of the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and the Jean-Michel Cousteau Institute. Membership in Ocean Futures Society is free and open to all.

2) Superpod get-together in Haro Strait on Sunday; J's and K's together on Wednesday. Here's the latest on the Southern Resident Community from the Center for Whale Research:


Wednesday, May 23rd: J & K pods went past the Center for Whale Research (west side of San Juan Island) 11:30 am - 12:30 pm, heading north. J's continued on north, & K's turned south, seen at Eagle Pt. (southwest side of SJI) at 6:30 pm still heading south.


And more details on Superpod Sunday (May 20th): Center for Whale Research staff have a few more details on who was at the "Superpod Sunday" off the west side of San Juan Island:
  • J-pod: All present
  • L-pod: Members of the L2's, L9's & L35's (sub-pods of L-pod) were seen. The L25 sub-pod was not present (L pod is large & the sub-pods don't always travel together).
  • K-pod: We're sad to report that K32, calf of K16, born between Nov. 4th & 13th, 2000, was not present.
But the GOOD news is that there was a new calf with K pod! K33, born to 14 year old K22 (Sekiu), is K22's first calf and the newest member to the Southern Resident community.

To find more information about J, K & L pods, & to see field guides for each pod, go to The Center for Whale Research

Much is going on to help bring Lolita home and to inform and advocate for her and her family Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to help Orca Network continue this work by clicking HERE. Thank you!

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