Recovered 'Free Willy' star swims with delight
January 8, 1997
Web posted at: 9:30 a.m. EST
NEWPORT, Oregon (CNN) -- A year after Keiko -- the famed
killer whale who starred in the hit movie "Free Willy" --
arrived in Oregon, the beloved orca swims, dives and leaps
with a vibrant zest for life.
Near death a year ago, Keiko has shed a host of health
problems. Leisons that once dotted his black-and-white coat
have vanished and his once-droopy dorsal fin has raised
almost a foot.
He also has put on a healthy 1,000 pounds, feasting on
delectable fish as if he were a king at his $7.3 million
rehabilitation facility at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Keiko
responds to food with a high-pitched squeal. (400K/17 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
But most importantly, Keiko is more confident, curious and
mentally stimulated, according to staff member Nolan Harvey,
who has helped Keiko recover after his move from a Mexico
City amusement park.
Pointing to Keiko freely cruising the aquarium, Harvey adds
that one of the greatest "sticking points" in the whale's
recovery was getting him to enter a tank for medical exams.
The orca's arrival has also boosted the aquarium's financial
health. The Oregon Coast Aquarium had more than 1.3 million
visitors in 1996, an increase of some 700,000 from the year
"You got it all. You got it all," one on-looker told Keiko.