COUNCIL CHRONICLE – Wikie, a captured killer whale, just became the first orca that can mimic words in English. According to her trainers, this 16-years-old specimen is capable of reproducing words like hello, bye. It can also count to three.
The sounds that come through her blowhole are not a perfect imitation but are still very recognizable. They resemble parrot-like squawks or strident whistles.
The researchers in charge of training Wikie state that she can also reproduce Amy¸ the name of her principal trainer. Joe Abramson, a scientist at the Complutense University of Madrid, said that the experiment team did not expect parrot-like mimics from the orca.
However, the killer whale is impressive in reproducing the sounds, even though an orca’s vocal anatomy is different from that of humans.
“You have to be careful about imposing our human concepts on animals. We will gain more if we try to understand the natural way each species communicates in its own environment than if we try to teach a human language”, said Abramson.
The First Killer Whale to Reproduce Human Words
Wikie is undergoing training at Marineland Aquarium in Antibes, France. The experiment results have been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal.
Its trainers are aware that the orca may not understand what she is saying. So as it is, they did not add context or meaning to any of the words.
Wikie is a wild killer whale, or orca, which is part of the oceanic dolphins’ family. Such species live in groups that use sound dialects as a form of communication form.
Researchers consider these signs of a high social intelligence and, therefore, are developing tests targeting them.
Although mimicking human sounds is difficult for mammals, whales can seemingly learn to reproduce them by hearing.
Based on the success of the killer whale experiment, the research team is claiming that genuine conversations with Wikie might one day become possible.
Image source: Pixabay