By Diane Hammond


Here's the good news we've been waiting for: a "snapshot" of Keiko's current health shows no current indication that Keiko is ill, according to an independent, blue ribbon health evaluation panel convened by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The panel conducted an extensive evaluation of the killer whale in December and January. The panel found that:

Dr. Lanny Cornell, Keiko's lead veterinarian and Free Willy-Keiko Foundation board member, received the news with these comments: "We are very pleased with the Blue Ribbon Panel's assessment that there is no indication that Keiko is ill. We are also reassured by the fact that each of their findings and recommendations were things we were either aware of, or working on in respect to Keiko's condition and rehabilitation.

This effort to relocate Keiko to a sea pen in the North Atlantic is a long process and his good health is important. Our only interest continues to be Keiko's continued improvement and well being. We all appreciate the USDA, APHIS, their staffs, the panelists and the organizations they represent taking time to reassure the public of Keiko's condition."

As you know, Keiko has been undergoing physical rehabilitation at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport since January 7, 1996. Since then, he has gained 1,900 pounds and greatly improved his cardiovascular fitness, evidenced by his ability to hold his breath for more than 17 minutes. Two years ago he could hold his breath for just three minutes.

Keiko has also shown a remarkable mental transformation from a relatively passive show animal to a fully-engaged, mentally-alert and often challenging patient.

Serving on the blue ribbon panel were Dr. Joe Geraci, National Aquarium at Baltimore; Dr. Barbara Kohn, USDA veterinarian and the Panel's coordinator and spokesperson; Bud Krames, behaviorist with Dolphin Quest; Dr. Jim McBain, lead veterinarian at Sea World of San Diego; Dr. Al Smith, virologist at Oregon State University; and Dr. Jeffrey Stott, marine mammal immunologist at the University of California at Davis.

Donations for Keiko's ongoing care can be made to the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation, 2925 S.E. Ferry Slip Rd., #81, Newport, Oregon 97365. For more information, check our web pages at , or e-mail


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