PREPARING KEIKO FOR A LIFE IN THE WILD....IS IT WORKING?
Seems to be, yeah. He's doing very, very well. And he's very motivated. He's
an animal that likes to please and right now he's starting to mouth the fish that
we have in the pool and the next step is having him acquire a taste for them
and then hopefully he'll be able to start eating them on his own.
DOES HE KNOW THAT THEY'RE FOOD?
I think so. It's hard to say. He's used to a different consistency of fish.
It's a fish that's been descaled and deslimed and frozen and the fish that we're giving him are
obviously fresh and have the scales on them and have a totally different taste. What we're trying
to do is, he initially has been on frozen fish for a number of years and for him to
acquire a taste of the fresh fish it's a totally different sensation. And so what we need him to
do is get used to eating fresh, dead fish and then gradually hopefully he will start eating the live fish.
OF COURSE HE HAS TO EAT THE LIVE FISH BEFORE RELEASE....
Right. We're planning on supplementing his intake and right currently he's
eating about 180 pounds of fish a day and we'd like to get him to pursue the live fish and for
him to eat 180 pounds of fresh fish a day it's going to be difficult to supply that
many fish, so we'll supplement whatever he doesn't take.
IS THAT A BENCHMARK IN TERMS OF HIS BEING ABLE TO BE RECOVERED?
Yeah, it's one of the pieces to the puzzle. There's a lot to this puzzle and
it's just one of the first hurdles. So we're going in the right direction, he's doing very,
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT BROADER PUZZLE AND SORT OF LIST THE FACTORS?
There's so many pieces to this puzzle and everything from the research to the
training, the husbandry, the eating of the live fish, the finding them in
baysite - there's a lot of different pieces and once we get him to a baypen
then there's a whole other set of problems that we have to face. And everything from having him in a bay - there
can be rough weather or it can be miserable conditions and he'll be used to
different sounds. When he gets to a baypen, he's been in a managed situation for a number
of years now and now the open ocean, there's a lot of noises, a lot of sounds.
WHAT IS THE SORT OF TYPICAL DAY FOR KEIKO?
Well, you know there's really no typical day for Keiko and that's part of our
plan, is to just break up his routine. So there's no set schedule. We come in the middle of
the night to feed him and do dive sessions with him and there's something new all
the time. There's novel stimuli added to the pool all the time, whether it's noise or different
play sessions or training techniques or live fish and we just want to make his day
as stimulating as possible.
AND WHAT ABOUT HUMAN CONTACT?
Well, right now we're encouraging it. It's part of his exercise program, is to
get in and spend some time in the water with him - rub him down, he really enjoys that.
He's a social animal so he loves that contact. Plus he likes to play around and when
he plays around that gives him the exercise and builds up the muscle tone which is going
to be important when we do go to move him into a baypen.
DO YOU THINK HE'LL MISS PEOPLE?
I don't know. It's hard to say. I think that his focus will change. It'll
change from hopefully to other killer whales.
WHAT DO YOU THINK HIS OVERALL PROGNOSIS IS?
Well, I'm very optimistic. I think this is a really worthwhile project. We're
learning not only about Keiko but the species in general and I think that we have an opportunity
here that hasn't come along before and we need to learn as much as we possibly can
and I'm very excited about his long-term prognosis.
SO IF YOU HAD TO WAGER?
To make a bet? Well, as I say, there's a lot of pieces to this puzzle and we
just have to make sure that all those pieces fit. I don't know. He's an animal that likes
to please and I think that if we continue to do the research and continue to train him and work
him into - try to teach him to become a wild whale again I think he has a pretty good chance. I
think the key is integrating him into another social group and once we can accomplish
that, then I think he's going to have a pretty good chance.
TEACHING HIM TO BE A WILD WHALE AGAIN. CAN YOU
TALK ABOUT THAT?
Well, he's relied on human contact for a lot of years and he hasn't been around
killer whales for a number of years and really his only social interaction has been
with bottlenose dolphins and then the human contact and now even now that he's moved to the
Oregon coast, his contact now is pretty much with the fish in his pool and
humans. Now what we need to do, is we just need to change his focus a little bit, which I think
he'll be very curious - he's a very curious animal and if we can get him into a baypen and there's
other animals in the area and they can ? physically (or acoustically) communicate, I think it'll be,
I think he'll really enjoy it. And I think he'd like to learn.
AND THE BAYPEN IS IN ICELAND?
Well, right now we haven't determined the site, but that is our optimal
choice, would be Iceland. We're looking at the North Atlantic. Keiko came from the North
Atlantic stock. He was collected off of Iceland but I think that population moves
around quite a bit and so pretty much anywhere. North Atlantic we're doing some
genetic work up there, and some acoustical work, and trying to see if we can locate his
pod - it's a very big ocean and I think it's going to be very difficult. But again, I think the
key is to be able to find another group that we might be able to have him exposed to and
then hopefully integrate him into that group.
WHAT ARE THE INTERIM POSSIBILITIES FOR KEIKO?
WOULD HE SPEND THE REST OF HIS LIFE IN THE SEAPEN PERHAPS ?
Well, we're going to take it one step at a time and hopefully we'll be able to
take it all the way to a release. But if it works that he's only going to make it to a baypen or
an open baypen, which we call, is a little bit further, then that's as far as we'll go. But
it's going to be a gradual process and it's going to be a learning experience for both of us and we're
just going to see how far we can take him.
DESCRIBE THE OPEN BAYPEN.
Initially we'll start off with a smaller baypen which is going to be kind of a
netted enclosure that he'll get used to. And that'll be kind of his security blanket
where we'll be able to get him on my fish, get him used to the acoustical sounds out in the wild ocean
and then from there, then we'll open him up into a kind of an open baypen, or a
fjord pen, which will have a lot of room to move and maneuver and hopefully he
will build up those muscle tones that are necessary to be able to survive in
the wild and build those hunting skills and capabilities.
WE HAVE SOME FOOTAGE OF HIM DOING THESE BREECHES WITH STEVE. CAN YOU TELL US,
WAS GOING ON AT THAT TIME?
These guys do that in the wild. And what we try to do is we try to stimulate him in as many different ways as we
can, so we can develop the exercise and the muscle tone and when we do breeches and bows and
that kind of thing, every time he does one, it's like jogging another half a
mile and builds up those muscles and that's going to be a really important factor in determining
if we can release him or not.
YOU'VE BEEN WORKING WITH KILLER WHALES AND CETACEANS FOR
MANY YEARS. YOU STARTED YOUNG?
Started at 15.
IN SEATTLE. TELL ME ABOUT THE BEGINNING?
Well, times have changed a lot in 27 years - times and attitudes have changed.
Back in the early 70s and late 60s people had a different attitude towards killer
whales. You know at that time fishermen were still shooting at them and a lot of the animals that
first came into captivity had a lot of bullet holes in them and everything. Attitudes
have changed as we've learned more about them. And the more we learn, the better off the
species is, because people are starting to respect the animal and not thinking of them as
the killers of the sea. They're a top predator, but they're also a very intelligent and very
I SPOKE WITH TED GRIFFIN A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO AND HE WAS TELLING ME ABOUT
NAMU. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THAT TIME YOU MUST HAVE BEEN LIVING IN SEATTLE
Well those were interesting days when Ted first brought Namu in. He was wearing a white hat. He was given the key to the city and we had an opportunity
there to learn something about a species that we knew very little about, actually nothing
about, and in my opinion Ted did more for the industry than anybody has before or
since. He made people aware that these animals are intelligent and they're a very gentle
animal and that I think has done a lot for the industry in general. And then times
kind of changed and people's perceptions of these animals changed too and they believed
that, a lot of people believe that they shouldn't be in a managed situation and so there was
an outcry and things changed at that time.
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THOSE EARLY DAYS WITH TED GRIFFIN AND DON
It was an interesting time because we didn't really know much about the
animals. We didn't know their patterns. We were very opportunistic. If we got a telephone call or
a radio call from one of the boats, we'd go out and pursue the animals and then
try to, try to collect some. And we were very selective in our fisheries, we
tried to confine the animals that we felt were juvenile animals that would
normally leave their group and establish other pods. At that time, that was a feeling, that these animals moved
around a lot more than what we found later.
And now we know that they have a very structured social group and they stay together pretty much most of their lives. But at
that time we knew very little and we've learned a lot since then and the more we learn
that pendulum seems to swing the other way. And at first, everybody was very
positive about us going out there and collecting these animals and then times changed. And
now there's not as much support out there for doing that.
HOW WAS THAT? BEING ON THE OTHER SIDE WHEN YOU SAW THE
PENDULUM START TO SWING, OR THE WIND SHIFT?
It was difficult. I know it was for Ted. For me, I believe that there's a need, or a necessity for having these animals in a captive situation
for their educational value and I think that without em, we would know
virtually nothing about them. We only see them on the surface for such a small percentage of time, and what they
do under water we're just still learning about and we're trying to find out
more. So it's changed.