The Hindu: Terrific Talkers

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TERRIFIC talkers


Popular pet:And great mimic.Photo: Special Arrangement

Popular pet:And great mimic.Photo: Special Arrangement

Quick learner: Loves to imitate. Photo: Special Arrangement

Quick learner: Loves to imitate. Photo: Special Arrangement

Not just birds, there are a few animals too who can mimic us. Take a look at them.

“Never miss a chance to shut up,” Will Roger advised. And so have the sages and wise ones over the centuries. Silence is golden. Someone has gone on to say that the easiest way to save face is to keep the lower half shut. We prefer humans to talk less (unless they’re saying good things about us). Yet, we are endlessly fascinated with animals who can talk in our voice. Say “Ram-Ram, Good Morning, Good Night, How Do You Do…” we keep teaching our rose-ringed parakeets.

If animals can’t imitate us, we get immense pleasure in imitating their voices. The largest crowd I saw in the Lucknow zoo was around the cage of a Hoolock gibbon, who called “Hooo-kooo” every few moments. But it was the people who made gibbons of themselves by calling “Hooo-kooo” many more times outside the cage before the fellow had a chance to reply.

Yes, parrots and parakeets are good at, well, parroting. They are great imitators. So are many songbirds and hummingbirds. Hill mynas are considered the greatest mimics in the world and used to be quite popular as pets. These vocal artists can mimic a voice, be it human or otherwise. The greater racket tailed drongo can even mimic warning calls of meercats. This sends them running away, while the clever drongo is left to eat the dinner by itself. But it is not only the birds who talk in our voice. There are a few animals who can do this too. And what more, even with an accent! Let’s check out a few famous talkers:


You would think that our closest relatives, the great apes, would be able to ape our talk. No, they don’t. Among the first known to do that is Tilda. This orang-utan was caught in the island of Borneo and raised in zoos in Europe. She can whistle like us, clap her hands and emit deep throated human-like sounds. Though her speech is not a perfect imitation, it is as close as a primate can get.


An elephant too has succeeded in sounding like humans. Koshik’s home is a zoo in South Korea. He’s a genius. Although the shape of an elephant’s mouth is not suited to form human words, he uses his trunk to do the job! He places his trunk inside the mouth and says words like ‘hello’, ‘sit down’ and ‘lie down’…in Korean.


Alice and George Swallow came across an orphan seal pup at a harbour. They brought him home, raised him in their bathtub, then in a pond and finally gave him to an aquarium as he grew. If you had visited Hoover (1971-1985) in the New England Aquarium in Boston, you might have heard him greet you in a thick Boston accent, “Well, hello deah!” Or he might have just told you to in his deep throated voice, “Get outta here!”

Odie, the “I love youuuuuuuuuuu” saying pug starred in the Oprah Winfrey show and made the audience go berserk. There are other famous talkers we’ll talk about in the following part of this article. But for now, as Lago, the pet parrot in Tintin’s adventure of The Castafiore Emerald says, “Blistering barnacles, that’s the end!”

The author is an Ex-Hon. Wildlife Warden, Udaipur

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