Keiko Must Be Honoured


“It’s absolutely essential to repair the damage done by the industry by labeling Keiko’s return to his native habitat a failure. We need to show the world how well he did from the moment he swam free in the waters where he was born and raised. Sadly he never found his family, but he rebounded from near death in Mexico to the full bloom of good health in the North Atlantic, and his true story must be told if we wish to see any other captives return to their home waters, especially if we want to see Lolita/Tokitae back in her home and habitat.” – Howard Garrett

Orca Network


Jean-Michel Cousteau with Keiko. © Tom Ordway, Ocean Futures Society

1)Taking the least healthy captive orca whale in the world and bringing him back to full health.
2) Successfully relocating Keiko from Mexico to a first-of-its-kind rehab facility in Oregon – free of all performances, breeding, and shows.
3) Successfully helping Keiko relearn how to catch live fish.
4) Curing Keiko’s papilloma virus and bringing his weight up by 2000 pounds.
5) Successfully relocating Keiko from Oregon to a sea pen in his native waters of Iceland.
6) Successfully transitioning Keiko to a netted off bay pen in Iceland  — 1000 times the size of the largest sea pen currently in existence.
7) Successfully bringing Keiko out into the company of wild Icelandic orca whales, where he was able to swim freely and interact with them for the first time since his capture as an infant.
8) Monitoring Keiko’s 1000 mile trek to Norway during which he was conclusively determined to have fed himself in the wild.

Jean-Michel Cousteau, President & Chairman, Ocean Futures Society

While we applaud the SeaWorld decision to stop captive breeding and phase out theatrical shows, Mr. Manby’s characterization of the Keiko program as a failure misses the point.  Keiko lived in the wild in a very large bay pen for the latter years of his life, interacted with orca and other wild animals in the open ocean, and gained health and stamina from being able to swim long distances.  While he did not re-connect with wild orca on any permanent basis, he interacted with his own kind in his natural birth environment in ways that an artificial environment found in captivity could never provide.

As we congratulate SeaWorld for announcing this monumental step in ending the captive breeding program, I urge Mr. Manby to reconsider his statement about Keiko, and I ask him to understand that the quality of Keiko’s remaining years were significantly enhanced by having an opportunity to live in an ocean sea pen with many weeks of forays in the open ocean.   The orcas in SeaWorld are living in bare and boring enclosures.  These highly intelligent animals deserve to live their remaining years in a natural environment under human care.   The overwhelming evidence of orca distress in captivity is far too great to ignore.

It is a fair request for Mr. Manby to continue to listen to the public. Not only has the public been asking for years to end the capture and breeding of captive orcas, but the public is now asking to finally close the chapter of captive orca history by retiring the remaining captive orcas and, at a minimum, allowing them the opportunity to swim wild under close supervision of human care in ocean enclosures.

The time has come for us to see orcas in captivity as a part of our past – not a tragic part of our future.  Lets end the show now and retire these intelligent, social, complex animals to sea pen sanctuaries.

March 17, 2016 : Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Letter to L.A. Times Editor about Keiko