There are some animals which can be trained to understand human speech to some extent. Then there those which can mimic human speech. However, when it comes to mimicking human speech, our imaginations are limited. Only a few birds are known to do that. A Killer Whale in France is now the latest animal which can mimic human speech!
Wikie, a 14-year-old Orca in the Marineland aquarium in Antibes has learnt to imitate many human phrases such as ‘Hello’ ‘Bye Bye’ ‘Amy’ ‘One, Two, Three’, etc. It is quite a sight to see a Killer Whale imitating human sounds! The Orca imitates human sounds by blowing through her blowhole. Wikie managed to imitate all the sounds that were asked of her in the first 10 tries during the tests that were conducted by scientists.
‘Hello’ is perhaps her favourite word as this Killer Shark can mimic the word right at the first try. “The results reported here show that killer whales have evolved the ability to control sound production and qualify as open-ended vocal learners,” the scientists wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Wikie is the first killer whale which has been trained to imitate human sounds! While biologists have been researching for quite a long time on getting animals to imitate human sound, the next step is to study if they understand the meaning of the words that they are ‘speaking’. In one such study in the past conducted on elephants which can imitate human speech, it was discovered that elephants don’t really know what they are saying, but use those words to bond with humans.
The next time you’re in an aquarium and you come across a killer whale, think of Wikie. While Wikie loves to say hello, she also loves to say ‘Bye Bye’ which she gets right one out of five times!