December 13, 2003 by



Categories: Misc.

keiko.jpgKeiko, the killer whale who starred in the “Free Willy” movies, died on Dec. 12 from pneumonia. He was 27.

Born in the Atlantic Ocean near Iceland, the whale whose name means “Lucky One” in Japanese, was captured in 1979 and held in an Icelandic aquarium. He was sold twice, first to Marineland in Ontario where he became a performing animal, then to Reino Aventura, an amusement park in Mexico City. Because his tank was too small, the 6-ton, 35-foot-long mammal suffered.

In 1993, he starred in the first of three “Free Willy” movies, which became box office hits and gave the whale’s plight international attention. The project to rehabilitate Keiko at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, then reintegrate him with a pod of wild killer whales, cost more than $20 million.

After being airlifted to Iceland, Keiko was released in 2002. Instead of joining his own kind, however, Keiko swam 870 miles in search of human companionship. He found it near the village of Halsa, Norway. There Keiko allowed fans to pet and play with him until animal protection authorities imposed a ban on the practice.

Keiko’s Vocal Dialect

18 Responses to Keiko

  1. marlen diaz

    no lo conoci pero llore su muerte porque me gustaba mucho tengo sus tres peliculas y me encanta brlas mucho. ahora si es libre para siempre!!!!!

  2. Joe DeLee

    Keiko was my best friend and from now on I will remember him with great feeling ang love. Free Willy was my favorite movie of all time and also the favorite of my friend Joe DeLee. I LOVE YOU KEIKO!

  3. Cody Langtry

    This is Cody Langtry and Joe DeLee, and we just want to say that we will now on celibrate National Keiko Day on December, 12. We realy enjoyed Keiko’s proforments in Free Willy and have loved him ever since. Now we like to think Keiko is Swimming free in heaven. WE LOVE YOU KEIKO!

  4. Krista

    I loved Keiko as much as everyone else yet I still watch Free Willy Every day and go to school with tears in my eyes. I didnt know him in person i knew him from my soul. And i cry just thinking about him
    I love you Keiko!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Jenny

    Keiko, you live on in my heart. You were wild and they domesticated you. You were free and were a family provider and they jailed you and stole you from your siblings and parents and grandparents. You went through hell for people to be entertained. You were the circus act that made people laugh at you. But through all that, you taught me that nothing stopped your spirit and the friendship you were willing to give and for that I am thankful. I know for a fact through personal experiences there is life after death and I know I will meet you someday but until then my friend, so long… I will continue to help rescue and rehabilitate animals and marine mammals because of you.

  6. Jenny

    Keiko,you live on in my heart.You were wild and they domesticated you.You were free and a family provider,they jailed you,stole you from your siblings.You went through hell to entertain people.You taught me that nothing stopped your spirit and friendship you were willing to give.For that I am thankful.I know for a fact through personal experiences there is life after death and I will meet you someday but until then my friend, so long… I will continue to help rescue and rehabilitate animals and marine mammals because of you.

  7. ana

    I didn’t get a chance to meet with Keiko, but he has always been in my heart. Even though time heals everything, his death has been very hard for me. I grew up watching all his movies and love them all. I feel sorry that humans try to take animals away from their families just to get money from their performances later on, it’s cruel and unjust. After he was released he went back looking for the only family he knew, humans. I would have liked to meet the person who took him away from his home in the first place, we all know why. Keiko had human qualities only better because he never knew greed, jealousy, or to lie. He only knew love and compassion for all and never judged a person when he met them. For that and many more reasons he will always be remembered by his fans, and me.

  8. yadira

    i love your movies keiko your movie reallytouched my heart because it was sad whenthey tried to capture you and i thinknthat thelittle kidwas nice enough to let yougointo the wildand let you die in peace and i will always keep youin my heart .

  9. yazmin

    when i first watched free willy when i was about 2-3 i loved orca just from seeing Keiko in the movie.
    when i found out he had died i cried so much! i thought no!He cant be dead!
    it wasnt untill last year i found out when my mum told me i was so upset!
    everyone loved him and still does
    will never ever forget you !

  10. glyn thomas davies

    what right does anyone of us have to take an amazing and beautiful creature such as an orca out of its environment then treat it as a pet for 20 years and bleed it dry of all the profits then just dump it back because its too old people who capture animals for a living deserve to burn in hell for all the bullshit they are pulling i swear on my fathers ashes one day soon they will all regret it an its not a threat its a guaranteed promise

  11. Margarita Gorbunov

    When I first saw Free Willy I was touched by how Keiko let His co-actor Jason James Richter ride him. When I found out Keiko died, I was in tears. My mom tried to comfort me. Keiko will definetly always be in my heart.

  12. Abby Dunlavy

    I cry all the time, and I am right now. I love Keiko and sent letters frequently to his trainers to see how he was. I miss him so much even if I had never met him. When he died I had a little funeral for him in my yard and burried a box of keep-sakes that reminded me of him. Reading all these other tributes really makes me feel happy and sad because I can see how much people loved and how he was surrounded by love, but still I am sad because reading thses reminds me of what he went through and how Keiko’s life ended. Love you Keiko.

  13. Remy

    So many years later, I sit here thinking about Free Willy, reading about Jason James Richter & crying, the whale that longed human companionship, amazing.

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