The Truth About Keiko's Death

KeikoMarch 2, 2010

On March 1st on Larry King Live, Thad Lacinak, who spent 30 years at Sea World and worked as head trainer, made the statement that Keiko died of starvation in the wild after losing more than 1000 lbs.

This statement is incorrect.

My staff and I were directly involved with Keiko and turned his care in Norway over to the Humane Society-U.S. Keiko had crossed 1,000 miles of open ocean from Iceland to Norway, feeding himself, and was not underweight at any time after his rehabilitation in Oregon. The only weight loss for Keiko was when he was in Mexico City and before his long recovery in Oregon.

Keiko died of a pneumonia-like virus, not starvation.

The issue of returning captive orcas to the wild is complex and the chances of success probably vary from orca to orca. But in any such attempt, the expense will be enormous and the process may be agonizing for both caretakers and the orca unless it is quickly accepted by a pod.

At a time when we are all looking closely at the issue of what might be the proper and humane next step for captive orcas, it is important that we all be aware of the truth about their condition in captivity. The release of Keiko was a unique and pioneering effort and we can draw valuable lessons from it.

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Warm regards,


Photo: Keiko. Courtesy Ocean Futures Society