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CNN Today

Keiko: Friend or Foe?

Aired March 2, 2000 - 2:54 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We have the story of a killer whale. Apparently, it is not welcome in someone's backyard.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Keiko was recently returned to his native waters off the coast of Iceland. And CNN's Jerrold Kessel reports on the next chapter for Keiko.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whale of a star, Keiko, performing at command in the same way he was used to during 20 years in captivity after he was plucked at age 2 from these Icelandic waters.

The purpose now, however, not to provide pleasure to an adoring human audience, but to boost the strength, stamina and resilience he will need in the harsh, natural world into which he was born.

HALLUR HALLSON, FREE KEIKO PROJECT: Keiko has become much more than superstar because he's teaching us, you know, a lesson on how to treat Mother Nature.

KESSEL: The people who carrying out the promise to give the world's most famous killer whale a chance to adapt to being free again, themselves from the world of oceonariums, are the first to insist this is a one-off venture, not a captivity versus anti- captivity issue.

CHARLES VINNICK, OCEAN VENTURES: It is not the case that this project is a demonstration project for the future. That is not what this is about. You could not do this many times again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people have put what is actually a lot of resources into it. I mean, you could take those resources and probably a whole population of killer whales in another area.

KESSEL: Keiko is on his way, say his trainers, from our world to the whale world. But there is still a way to go, they say. Their next step to expand horizons, though still under control within the netted bay area.

Killer whales are very much social creatures, they Keiko's fellow whales take to his presence? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are unknowns as to the extent to which he will become incorporated into a resident that lives out there, to extent to which they will recognize his vocalizations and welcome him in.

KESSEL (on camera): Keiko, pioneer or guinea pig? Whether this is about one whale or more, whether it has broader bearing on environmental or whaling issues, as some hope and others whether the money and the effort is being well spent, one thing is already clear, Keiko's fate is making people on all sides of the argument re-think the relationship between human beings and animals in the wild and from the wild.

Jerrold Kessel, CNN, Westman Islands, Iceland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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