Listen to what Keiko wants!

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  July/August 2003:

Listen to what Keiko wants!
Guest column by Bonnie Norton

Do you (along with thousands of other people), know in your
heart that after five years of trying to free Keiko, it is now time
to bring him to a place where he can be taken care of and again be
with people?
I am a devoted animal lover. In general, I am not in favor of
keeping wild animals in captivity, but have learned to observe,
listen to, and honor each animal as an individual.
In 1997 I learned to communicate with animals. While visiting
the Oregon Coast Aquarium I communicated with Keiko who,  to my
surprise,  told me he did not want to be set free and would continue
to behave in ways to discourage his handlers from releasing him
because his work was with the people who came to see him.

Keiko continued, “I would rather be here with my human
friends. They are really my family;  I know little of my own.  Please
let them know this. They believe they are doing what I want,  but it
is what they want for me.  They want me to be something that I am
not.  I am not a wild whale-I am Keiko.”  My communications with
Keiko are documented by several televised news interviews in 1998.
Keiko was flown to Iceland in September 1998.  For four years
he continued to return from ocean “walks” to be with his caretakers,
but in early August 2002 it was reported that Keiko was finally free
and thriving in the ocean.
On August 8, 2002, during a communication with Keiko (posted
on my web site August 26, 2002),  Keiko said,  “If the people won’t
come to me,  I will go to the people.”
Three weeks later, after swimming over 800 miles, Keiko
arrived in a Norwegian fjord where children got into the water and
swam with him.
Shortly after his arrival, the public was banned from going
closer than fifty meters from Keiko. Two animal communicators
contacted me because Keiko told them that he was considering “going
on land,” and “beaching” himself.  A number of communicators then
asked Keiko to please stay in the water.  In November 2002 Keiko was
led by boat to Taknes Bay,  an isolated fjord that doesn’t freeze,
and as early as December he communicated to me that he was sad and
In February 2003 Keiko swam back towards the fjord that
freezes and became trapped under the ice. He panicked, but
fortunately was able to break through,  sustaining only minor
injuries. On March 7, 2003 Keiko said,  “I was looking for people,
thinking how happy I’ll be when I find them.”
On April 24, 2003 the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten,
reported that plans are currently being considered to take “the orca
on a long journey out to sea to increase the odds of his meeting his
own kind.”  This could become a tragic mistake.
Then on June 23, 2003 the Humane Society of the United States
said that in an effort to break the connection between Keiko and his
human admirers, “The team members have had to set up a temporary
barrier between Keiko and the sightseeing boats which have
increasingly distracted the famous orca from his larger goal of
gaining independence. This temporary net simply keeps Keiko away from
humans and boats;  as human activity diminishes,  Keiko will once
again be free to come and go as he pleases.”
Whether or not you believe in animal communication, Keiko has
done all he can to show us how much he wants to be with people.  A
potentially acceptable solution for everyone involved would be to let
Keiko know Taknes Bay is his home by continuing to feed and care for
him there,  and allowing people to visit him from the shore or a
dock–especially during the winter.  That way Keiko could still enjoy
swimming free and hopefully won’t feel he has to go looking for
people and again risk getting trapped under the ice.
Also,  every time Keiko goes looking for people or decides to
return from an attempt to meet other whales,  he risks being hit by
boats using those waterways.
HSUS told me that encouraging people to visit Keiko would be
exploitation. Yet, how can it be exploitation if it is the life Keiko
wants?  I have talked with many children and adults who say they will
never forget seeing Keiko at the Oregon Coast Aquarium and that
because of their experience,  they are now totally against capturing
or killing any whales.
Imagine the effect Keiko could potentially have upon the
people of Norway,  among the few remaining whaling nations,  where
Keiko is nonetheless already much beloved.
I commend the intentions and efforts of the Free Willy/Keiko
Foundation and the HSUS during the decade that they have worked to
rescue Keiko from substandard conditions at a Mexico City amusement
park, restore his health, and attempt to set him free.  They have
said that the reason Keiko swims to people is because that is what he
knows, and it is our fault for making him dependent on humans.  Both
statements may be true,  but regardless of the cause, it is Keiko’s
life and it is time to honor what he wants. If you believe, as I do,
that it is time to let Keiko live in a safe place where he can be
cared for and be with people, please write to Dave Phillips c/o
<> and Nick Braden c/o <>, with
your thoughts/suggestions.  If you are with an animal organization,
please encourage your members to go to <> and
link to “Sign Keiko’s Petition.”  Hundreds of people have signed
already,  many of whom have included their comments supporting this
Thank you for your support of Keiko.  Please send him your
love,  prayers, and healing energy.  He once communicated to me,
“It’s nice when people care about me.  They don’t always know it,
but I hear them.”

Bonnie Norton adds:

“Professional animal communicators Teresa Wagner and Mary
Getten have assisted me with a number of independent communications
with Keiko.  The results were not shared until the communications
were complete.  Detailed communications with Keiko are posted at
Incidentally,  in August 2001,  while Keiko was in Iceland,
Teresa Wagner asked him about Low Frequency Active Sonar.  Keiko said
he has not personally experienced it.  He added,  “Whales talk all
around the world,  you know.  The whales know about this crisis.  The
whales here where I am have not been harmed.  The whales in other
oceans and in other parts of oceans have been harmed horribly and
they would rather die than live with it.  The story is that when this
sound occurs,  it’s like going crazy.  Nothing else can be sent or

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