The vocal feats put Wikie, an orca at the Marineland aquarium in the city of Antibes, in rare company. While birds such as parrots and mynas are known to be able to mimic human sounds, only a few mammals, including a zoo elephant in South Korea, have been documented doing so.
Wikie had already been trained during previous studies to respond to "copy" or "do that!" command, and this time the researchers used it after introducing her to sounds she'd never heard or uttered before - some orca, some human.
She did well, making "recognizable copies" of all the sounds within 17 tries, the researchers reported Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The orca got two of the human sounds right on her very first attempt: "hello" and "one, two, three."
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