An orca in France can speak human – well, sort of – and, wow, this is the best news ever. Free Willy reboot, you guys!? Researchers at the Marineland theme park in Antibes have taught 14-year-old Wikie to speak (or at least mimic) English sounds and phrases , in order to better understand how orcas interact with each other. They also hope to learn how whale pods form their own dialects, which researchers say are socially learned and sometimes based on their besties
While orcas are known to have their own dialects and can even mimic dolphin and seal sounds, Wikie is one of the few animals that can mimic human sounds. (Birds like parrots and mynas, and an elephant in South Korea can all 'speak' to humans.)
How it works: researchers have trained Wikie to respond to certain words and sounds by playing recordings to her on the regs. (Their theory is that she could then share the 'language' with her pod.) Wikie can now say “hello” in a high-pitched voice – or in a sassy, tired-sounding voice like she’s saying, “hello, don’t bother me right now. I’m resting up to go swim these open seas and gossip with my orca squad.” There’s also a hint of vocal fry in there (or maybe it’s her French accent?).
Wikie can also blow raspberries, count to three, and say “bye, bye.” Basically, this video is the cutest 50 seconds of your life.
Even though researchers believe Wikie doesn't (yet!) know what she's saying, there is hope of talking whales in the future. The co-author of the study said whales might be able to speak to humans in the future with some training. “It has been done before with a famous grey parrot and dolphins using American Sign Language; sentences like ‘bring me this object’ or ‘put this object above or below the other,’” said Jose Abramson in an interview with the BBC. Also, let's not forget this incredible story about Kelly the dolphin please:
Just imagine a whale saying, “OK, now bring me a fish cocktail with five ice cubes, no more, no less.” It would be amazing!