KEIKO UPDATE
JUST FOR KIDS
By Diane Hammond

 

A recent press story gave the impression that if Keiko were given a clean bill of health, his release - to the wild - was imminent. Children who were interviewed for this story expressed fear that Keiko wasn't ready.

To set the record straight, I have posted the following Children's Update on our web site
( www.keiko.org ). I thought it would interest you, too!

Kids have been Keiko's greatest fans and supporters. You've cheered for him, loved him, and worried about him sometimes. Is this one of those times? If so, this update is for you. Let's talk about what's next for Keiko.

You probably know that he is much healthier now than two years ago, when he first came to Newport. He's fatter, stronger, zippier, and his skin looks great - the big warty places above his pectoral flippers and tail flukes are mostly gone. He's got a mind of his own these days, too, so he can be a real handful. (Sound like anyone you know?)

But after two years, Keiko is still alone in his pool here. Although his trainers swim and play with him every day, they're slow and clumsy in the water compared to him. They're a lot smaller, too, so he has to be extra careful around them. Since there's nothing else living with him in his pool, it's a very quiet place for an animal that learns so much from sound.

That's why we're getting ready to move Keiko. Sometime later this year or early next year, we will move him to an enclosure called a bay pen in the North Atlantic Ocean, where he came from 18 years ago.

Did your worry meter just go up? Let's talk about what we mean - and what we don't mean-when we talk about moving Keiko to the North Atlantic.

We DON'T mean we'll turn him loose in the ocean to fend for himself!

We DO mean we'll build him a safe home where he can experience life in the ocean for the first time in 18 years - but still be completely taken care of.

We will build him a new enclosure called a bay pen, which is like a really big swimming pool that has heavy-duty nets for walls. The pen will be even bigger than his pool here, and will keep Keiko safe and protected. His trainers will be the same people he already knows and trusts, and they will be with him every day, just like they are here.

Imagine what that new home will be like, for Keiko. He will feel waves and currents in the water as the tide comes and goes. Fish will swim in and out of his pen freely through the net walls. The water will be murkier than it is in his Newport pool, so he might start echolocating a lot more (using his built-in sonar to ³see² with sound when he can't see with his eyes).

Best of all, Keiko will hear everything going on around him - he'll be linked by sound to the natural world for the first time in 18 years. The ocean is a noisy place, and sound comes from everywhere and everything - from boats to fish, from crabs to wild killer whales that call as they swim by. Maybe one day the wild whales will communicate with Keiko.

Maybe one day they will stop instead of swimming by. Imagine what it would be like to hear from animals that are just like you after you have been away for so long. They speak your language; they look like you. Perhaps they are even related to you. Would it be like coming home after you've been in another world?

Keiko would give up all of those chances, if he stayed in his concrete pool in Newport. As we get ready for this next chapter in Keiko's life, we will tell you lots more about it.

But for now if you have other questions or worries about Keiko, please send them to us at trainer@keiko.org  and we'll be glad to talk with you some more.


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