Keiko in Norway's Halsa Fjord.
The Keiko Project -- a joint non-profit effort by the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and The Humane Society of the U.S. -- was established in 1994 to rescue, rehabilitate, and release to the wild Keiko, the most famous whale in the world.

This is the story of how a young two year old orca whale began an amazing journey that has spanned five countries and tens of thousands of miles.

Through education, research, and outreach, we are involving millions of people in learning about the successful efforts to return a captive whale to the wild for the first time in history.

During the past decade we have made incredible progress.


From a very small pool in unhealthy conditions in an amusement park in Mexico City, we have:

  • Negotiated the donation of Keiko from the Reino Aventura amusement park to our project;

  • Built a state-of-the-art rehab pool in Oregon and transported Keiko successfully from Mexico to Oregon;

    Keiko staff in Norway.

  • Brought Keiko back to full health, in an environment in which he was not a performing animal;

  • Negotiated with the Icelandic government to allow the return of Keiko to his native waters;

  • Built both a sea pen and a larger netted off bay pen to allow Keiko room to swim and explore his environment as we trained him the skills necessary for survival in the wild;

  • Re-taught Keiko to eat live fish;

  • Taken Keiko out into the open ocean and reintroduced him to wild orca whales;

  • Closely monitored Keiko as he has become far more comfortable in the company of wild whales, and shown the ability to sustain himself in the wild.

  • August 2002, Keiko has swum more than 1000 miles to the Norwegian coast, where he is residing in a protected fjord.

  • After a wonderful journey in freedom, Keiko passed away in Norway on December 12, 2003 at age 27. Keiko's legacy will continue.


Keiko has been featured as the cover story of Life Magazine, New Yorker Magazine and in newspaper and television coverage around the world.

Keiko was featured in the Warner Bros. Hit film Free Willy, and in the Discovery Channel Documentary The Free Willy Story, and the Jean-Michel Cousteau Documentary Born to Be Wild, as well as in television coverage around the world.

In addition to the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and the Humane Society of the United States, the Keiko Project has received generous assistance from the Craig and McCaw Foundation, the Wendy P. McCaw Foundation, Earth Island Institute, Ocean Futures, United Parcel Service, Orca Lab, the Dolphin Connection, and from millions of children around the world.

Learn more about Keiko and what you can do to get involved in legacy to help other whales!

David Phillips
Free Willy Keiko Foundation

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