Taken from the Times Globe, Friday,
Freeing Willy is a
Movie-star whale not anxious to leave
its N.B.-built haven
By MARK REID
for the Telegraph
A New Brunswick
businessman is rushing to rescue the reputation of Keiko, the killer whale
after a character assassination by an American tabloid.
The former Free Willy movie star, who spent 19 years in captivity, is
currently living in a New Brunswick-built pen in waters off Iceland where he is
being trained to return to the wild.
National Examiner, in an article published last week, called the four-ton
killer whale a "Hollywood has been" and a "blubber belly" who would rather live
a pampered life in captivity than roam free with his fellow
While Keiko's rehabilitation is taking longer than
expected, his supporters were quick to defend the whale's slow pace on the road
"These tabloid press things, I hate to
believe anything that's in [them]," says Shediac businessman Rick Shalala,
co-owner of Strait Moorings International , the company that built the moorings
for Keiko's cage. "The whale is doing well. His training is coming along a
little slower than what they would like.
"But this is
the first time this has been attempted. There's no rules to follow. You just
have to feel your way along."
Keiko's had a rough ride
since his arrival in Iceland 10 months ago.
killer whale received death threats from Icelandic extremists who were upset
with the choice of location for his retraining.
Keiko and his rehabilitators suffered through one of the worst Icelandic
winters in recent memory.
Now, the whale's being called a
has been by the American tabloid.
In an article last
week titled "Free At Last! . . . But killer whale Keiko doesn't want to be
free!," the Florida-based National Examiner says "the Hollywood has-been would
rather lounge around his pen and be hand-fed sumptuous meals ... than swim with
the other blowhards and forage for his own dinners.
However, Blair Mott, a marine technician involved in
Keiko's rehabilitation, says the tabloid's name-calling is
Mr. Mott, a member of the Ocean Futures Society
in Santa Barbara, Calif., says Keiko's training is going very well considering
that this is the first attempt at returning a killer whale to the
"This is an experiment," Mr. Mott says in defence
of the beleagured killer whale.
"There's nothing to
compare it to.
"It's not to our benefit, or to Keiko's
just to open it [the cage] up and see what happens. "
Keiko's New Brunswick connection comes from the high-tech
$500,000 cage being used to house the whale during his
The cage's netting was built by
Pennfield's Cards Aquaculture.