Celebrated killer whale Keiko continues to fascinate, and tens of thousands have made the trip to Taknes Bay, Halsa to get a glimpse of the star of the film, Free Willy. Visitors have been so considerate that Keiko's team can relax this summer, newspaper Tidens Krav reports.
There is a steady stream of people who come. Every hour of the day there are
20 or so watching," said Frank Haavik, the only Norwegian member of Keiko's
team of minders, which includes marine biologists Thorbjorg Kristiansdottir
and Colin Baird.
"Just the last month there have been between 10,000-20,000 people here," Haavik told the newspaper.
Keiko's arrival in Skaalvik Fjord last year set off a media circus that brought teeming crowds and unwelcome attention to the orca and his team, who are working on trying to get the killer whale back to the wild and his own kind.
The team have been apprehensive about what the summer would bring, and have set up a net to keep boat traffic at a distance. People approaching on land are also kept at a greater distance than before.
"It has gone better than expected maybe. The visits have been controlled and there have been no problems," Haavik said.
Dave Phillips of the Free Willy Foundation confirmed that the orca project costs about NOK 2.5 million (USD 341,000) a year, and that they are hoping the new Norwegian division can raise some money for the effort.
The organization has hired a fourth person, American Dane Richards, who worked with Keiko for two years in Iceland. Colin Baird is on a long holiday in Canada, and the team is relaxed after a peaceful summer.