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‘Talking’ orca not such great news

An orca held at a captive facility in France has apparently been trained to speak according to scientists.

The whale, called ’Wikie,’ is currently held in a tank at Marineland in Antibes. She has been recorded saying ‘Hello,’ ‘May,’ ‘one, two, three,’ and other words and phrases, after copying trainers saying the words directly or in recordings. This was part of a study created by scientists from St. Andrews and Madrid Universities.

Orcas, bottlenose dolphins and belugas are all species that vocalize, with individuals capable of learning and adapting  a variety of sounds.  Some communities of orcas even have their own ‘dialects, ’ or variations of a more widely used ‘language.’

Whilst this does highlight how intelligent orcas are, the study lends nothing to our understanding of wild orcas or how to protect them, and that we can learn more about orcas by studying them responsibly in the wild.

WDC’s End Captivity programme lead, Cathy Williamson said: ‘Orcas are not subjects to be kept in tanks for study or any other purpose. They belong in the wild.  Wild orcas live rich and varied lives, with complex communication between individuals and groups. Teaching them to copy human words only demonstrates how intelligent they are and how unsuited to confinement in captivity they are.”

The study does raise the question  – if she could, what would Wikie say if ask about being confined to a small tank for the rest of her life?

Read about how intelligent whales and dolphins are