Orca Network Press Release
August 13, 2002
Contact Howard Garrett or Susan Berta
cell: (360) 661-3739
KEIKO CROSSES NORTH ATLANTIC WITH WILD WHALES
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 40-60 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 of 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.
More background on Keiko's travels