The aquarium complained to federal aviation officials that since Keiko arrived on January 7, pilots have invaded his privacy on an average of twice a month. One of the worst incidents happened late last month, says Pete Wall, director of operations, when a small plane flew over the tank at 300 feet, banked and zoomed back at just 100 feet. One morning around 3 a.m., the whale was disturbed by a helicopter hovering at low altitude and shining a spotlight.
Wall says that whales have an acute sense of hearing, and the aquarium staff is concerned that the overflights could start to make Keiko jumpy, particularly around his handlers. "He's very friendly and wouldn't do anything purposely, but if he whipped his tail and hit one of our trainers, that could be serious," Wall says. Keiko weighs 8,000 pounds. So far, he seems to be taking the intrusions well.
An attack of nerves is all Keiko needs. He's still on the mend from the mistreatment he received at an aquarium in Mexico City, where he lost weight and suffered from a virus.
As for Keiko's film career, Free Willy 3 is in preparation, but Wall says that the celeb whale hasn't had a call from Hollywood yet. "I don't know their plans," he says. "They may use Animatronics."