Orcas Can Now Imitate Human Speech

Animals will never cease to amaze us. Whether they’re solving pollution or producing alcohol, our wonder hardly falters. As technology remains on the rise, animals are calling out for attention — literally. Killer whales are showing parrots the real deal, imitating their trainers’ speech.

“We found that the subject made recognizable copies of all familiar and novel conspecific and human sounds tested and did so relatively quickly (most during the first 10 trials and three in the first attempt),”

Star pupil Wikie is a marvel at the Marineland Aquarium in southern France. Whereas most mammals use the larynx to vocalize, whales and the like use a nasal passage. And yes, that makes it all the more impressive.

“Human sounds are easily recognizable by us and if they could produce a human sound that is not in their normal repertoire, that would mean that the only way they could learn it is by listening to it and reproducing it. And that’s what we did,” [said professor Josep] Call.

So far, Wikie has learned to greet guests with “hello” and “bye bye” as well as count (up to two, anyway). Now, excuse me while I binge reruns of Free Willy!

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