Inter-species Connections: Whales & Dolphins, Linda & Keiko

Linda, Keiko, and his dolphin friends.

Earlier this year I viewed a YouTube video of interplay between a Humpback whale and a dolphin. This falls in the category of interest to the Wisdom University’s Institute of Inter-species Connections of which I am director. At first viewing there was a question about the intent of this interaction, but it soon became clear that the two species were thoroughly enjoying each others company.


Watching this video took me back to my time in Mexico when I worked with Keiko, the orca whale featured in the movie “Free Willy”, and the special friendship he had with four dolphins. My visit was during the time he was being prepared to be moved to Iceland, a sojourn before his eventual release, in the hope that he would find the pod from which he was captured as a young calf 10 years before.

Linda and one of Keiko's dolphin companions.

At the time this inter-species friendship was thought to be highly unusual as dolphins are considered to be prey for Orca whales. Obviously Keiko had a different concept of friendship and it was delightful to watch his dolphin friends playing with him, sliding over the top of his head and brushing against him and just hanging out in the pool together.

I had the feeling that Keiko was happy in Mexico.  Besides his dolphin friends, he had a strong inter-species friendship with a human. He was so bonded to his trainer/caregiver, Jeanette that she had not taken a holiday for seven years because Keiko would became so depressed.




How did I come to work with Keiko you might ask? An Albuquerque veterinarian who had been communicating with Keiko contacted my office and

Keiko responds to Linda TTouching along his side.

asked if I would visit Keiko in Mexico City. In those days I taught an annual TTEAM training in the historic art town of San Miguel de Allende and she knew that I flew through Mexico City. I wish I could remember name of the vet, maybe someone will tell her about this blog and we can reconnect.

Keiko was clearly distressed the first time I went to work with him. In preparation for the move to Oregon for rehab and ultimate release, the water Keiko’s pool had been cooled several degrees; this posed a problem for his dolphin friends. They could not take the cold water so they were moved into a pool next to Keiko. When I arrived he was swimming back and forth non-stop, like a dog pacing in a kennel or a horse stall-walking,  vocalizing to them in a very agitated way.

It was between shows when I arrived at the stadium pool and there was no one in sight. Keiko was on the far side of the pool, swimming back and forth. Above the pool were maybe 30 rows of cement steps that spectators sat on. At the top of the steps I stood quietly for a while and, seeing no one around, I made a very loud, high-pitched call that I had learned from an orca whale off the coast of British Columbia when I was on an orca research trip with Jim Nolman and Gigi Coyle in 1974.

Keiko responded immediately. He left his dolphin friends and came right over to the side of the pool. I walked down and spoke to him and then Jeanette appeared from behind the staging area on the far side of the pool. Keiko followed me around the edge of the pool, with him nose out of the water looking at me.

Jeanette had received a letter from the vet saying that she hoped I could come. I brought her a copy of my book, The Tellington TTouch: Caring For Animals With Heart and Hands, and we talked about TTouch. Keiko stayed close to us the whole time. When I reached down and began to do Raccoon TTouches on his nose the entire 17 feet of him began trembling, which

Linda and Keiko engaging in inter-species communication

he’d never done before. I asked why she thought he was shaking, and she replied, “I think he’s happy to see you.”

Although I TTouched the wart-like Papillomavirus growths Keiko had developed in captivity, my primary interest was increasing his trust of new people. Apparently it normally took more than a month before he was comfortable with a new person around the pool. Jeanette said it was amazing that he trusted me enough to roll over and allow me to TTouch the wart-like hardened area you see in the photo.

Here you can seem some of the wart like growths that had developed on Keiko's underside

When Keiko was flown to Oregon for the first phase of his relief, Jeanette was told there was not enough money to support her accompanying him. I could not believe that despite a rumored 17 million being spent for his move, Jeanette had not been figured into the cost.  That spring at Equitana (the world’s largest equine trade show held in Essen, Germany) I offered my usual personality analysis of horses to the public, requesting a donation that would support Jeanette and a friend travelling with Keiko to Oregon. I raised $4700 which was enough to support the two women for almost a month long stay in Oregon to ease Keiko’s transition into a strange new place.

Although Keiko died less than a year after his release, apparently of pneumonia, I believe that he brought a level of awareness that could make a difference to all whales on our precious planet. I feel very privileged to have spent time with him and been involved with his life.


© 2012, Linda Tellington-Jones. All rights reserved.

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