by Mark A. Simmons
When I saw this book on the library shelf, I recalled reading Death at SeaWorld and was curious about another perspective on similar subject: orcas in captivity. This book is about one particular orca that starred in the film Free Willy. Following the film\’s popularity, people wanted Keiko- the real whale- to be set free in the ocean- he was living in a theme park in Mexico. The attempt was made- with huge donations of money from both the public and private organizations. The whale was moved from Mexico to an aquarium in North America for a rehabilitation period, and then to an oceanic pen on the coast of Iceland where the release was planned. He was led into the open ocean and guided back to the pen many times- but in the end did not make it. Reports say he was weakened by long-term illness and deteriorating skin conditions caused by his decade in captivity. It certainly sounds like the effort of restoring his health and releasing him into the wild again was a complicated, daunting task- some say with little hope of success.
I couldn\’t read the book, though. I went into it not knowing who the author was, his agenda or background. I was baffled on the opening page, when the author claimed that orcas in captivity behave no differently than those in the wild. I was taken aback by his disparaging attitude towards others around him- both colleagues and renowned scientists. The writing felt awkward and often sounded peevish. It jumps around a lot but usually zeroed in on why the author felt slighted or how his opinion trumped everyone else\’s- which really bored me. The book itself- as a physical object- felt like a self-published volume- cramped margins, slightly-over-large text, thinly glued binding. I assume my guess was right when I looked up the publisher and found this one book to their name. Just couldn\’t read any more after that.
Abandoned 398 pages, 2008