Scientists teach orca to talk, but there is a darker side

Learning a new language can be tough, but especially if you're a marine mammal.

Scientists say they've taught an orca to mimic a few words in English.

But the talk has now shifted to animal cruelty.

Who doesn't like a good old chat? Whales included - different pods even have their own dialects 

But this is something quite different - scientists now claim these highly intelligent creatures can speak or mimic human at least, English to be exact.

Wikie, a 16-year-old Orca can copy her trainers' speech.

She uses her blow hole to make sounds that she's been taught and memorised, including names.

They're claiming an orca first.

But before you dive in for a chat, remember, just because she can apparently say the words, doesn't mean she understands them.

"They are learning to produce a new sound that is not in their natural repertoire, that does not mean they are engaging in a conversation - that is a separate issue." said New Zealand orca expert Ingrid Visser.

She says she wouldn't have gone near the study. 

"I don't really think this sort of a study is a good reflection on us, as humans. We should be looking at ways to improve the welfare of these animals, not just turning them into another toy to mimic us," she said.

Ms Visser says orcas often mimic out of loneliness and boredom.

The French park where Wikie's being trained has attracted protests before - Ms Visser's been and seen it herself.

"It's incredibly barren, the only entertainment that animals have is the shows that they do or just some toys they throw into the tank," she said.

She wonders if the talking orca is about the park attracting customers.

Those working with Wikie deny their research is cruel, but no doubt, the conversation will continue.