SEATTLE — As KING 5's reporting surrounding Tokitae's long-awaited return to the Salish Sea rolled out this week, a class of Seattle third graders started to get excited at the prospect of welcoming the orca home.
Tokitae was taken from the Puget Sound at just four years old and sold to the Miami Seaquarium, where she has spent the past 53 years. Plans are being developed to transport the whale to a sea pen in the Salish Sea where she'll once again get to interact with her natural environment.
A class at Decatur Elementary wanted to give her a warm welcome, so they made "Welcome home Tokitae" signs, and wrote letters and poems.
"I shared the story of Tokitae coming home with my students and they got very fired up about it," said Cheryl Adams, a third-grade teacher at Decatur Elementary.
Since they learned of Tokitae's homecoming, students have drawn her pictures, written her letters, and added their well-wishes to a banner the class made together.
One message from Cohen F. read "Welcome home Toki, I hope you have fun." Quinn D. wrote, "I hope you enjoy Washington."
Mia wrote a poem for Tokitae.
"I'm trying to express how happy I am that she's being free," Mia said.
Her poem reads:
Tokitae is a beautiful beast,
fighting for her freedom.
In a small enclosure, crying, thinking,
"How will I be free?"
"I could really feel her pain," Mia said. "The orca can't talk herself but people can talk for her."
Adams said her students feel very strongly about protecting wildlife.
"I really feel bad for Tokitae, and want her to be home with her family," Quinn said. "She might not be a person but she deserves as much as we do."
"Third graders in particular are very justice-minded," Adams continued.
"Now she's being freed and I think that's nice," another student said. "I really want to celebrate the people who did that. I want to say thank you to everybody who wants to set her free. Literally, I'm like the happiest kid on Earth."