Research released today shows that an orca in a marine park in the French Riviera can be taught to say simple human words.
A 16-year old orca in captivity in France has been trained to mimic human sounds, research released today has shown.
Wikie, a female killer whale kept at Marineland of Antibes in the French Riviera was taught to repeat simple human sounds such as "hello" and "bye bye" as a part of studies conducted by institutions lead by Complutense University of Madrid.
Researchers said that, longer term, the research may result in the ability to conduct basic conversations with the animals.
Sadly, research such as this being conducted in captivity is another example of unnecessary imprisonment of cetaceans across the world. Research from recent years completed in the wild has shown similar findings as this study, without a need for keeping an animal in an enclosure completely unsuitable for a large mammal.
Evidence on killer whales replicating sounds by both other pods and other species of dolphin has been widely reported in recent years, with much public interest in particular around evidence showing killer whales can adapt their vocalisations to those of other species such as bottlenose dolphins.
As well as reinforcing the sophistication and intelligence of these animals, such research also shows how much we can learn about these species in the wild, which raises the question of why it is necessary to study the animals in captivity.
ORCA's citizen science research is one example of how much rich and varied data we can collect about cetaceans by observing them in the wild, and we are wholly opposed to this type of captivity. We hope that in the very near future we will see an end to this type of cruelty so that all cetaceans can live freely in the wild.