Dear Friends of Lolita,
After making tremendous strides (or strokes) toward complete independence from humans in the past three months, Keiko has to return to Klettsvik Bay for the winter. Although the whales remain off the southern coast of Iceland through November and some stay year around, the weather often prevents boat trips into the open ocean, so Keiko will remain in the fenced bay till spring.
Keiko has traveled and cavorted with dozens of orcas this summer, and seems to have communicated and shared certain calls with some of them, but he has only had contact with a few hundred of the several thousand orcas that inhabit the waters around Iceland. Studies of other orca communities show that lifetime family ties are the essence of orca lifestyles, so it is very possible that Keiko simply has not yet encountered his close kinfolk, so he hasn't felt the bonds that would hold him in the company of the wild orcas.
By contrast, Lolita's immediate family is well known and is routinely monitored each year. She was captured at around six years old, compared to Keiko's capture at 1 or 2 years old, so Lolita may be more prepared to resume the behaviors needed to rejoin her family.
It is not known what will happen next spring. Options include another summer of boat-follow trips out into the open sea, or possibly establishing a feeding station somewhere along the coast of Iceland, allowing Keiko to come and go as he pleases year around. The town of Eskifjord is closest to the location where Keiko was captured and would provide a protected inlet for such a feeding station.
Here's a media report on Keiko:
KOIN-TV says 'Free Keiko' Won't Be This Winter's Blockbuster
August 30, 2001 (KOIN-TV) It looks like the "Free Willy" star won't be going free any time soon.
Keiko will be spending this winter in his pen near Reykjavik instead of returning to the wild as his handlers had hoped. But despite the decision to keep Keiko penned for the winter, scientists are focusing on the mammal's significant progress.