Russia is now training dolphins to help them in the war against Ukraine. A report published by the U.S. Naval Institute News (USNI) reviewed satellite imagery of the naval base at Sevastopol harbour in Crimea — Russia’s significant naval base in the Black Sea. Submarine analyst H I Sutton wrote the report analyzing the satellite imagery showing two dolphin pens at the harbour’s entrance. According to him, the pens were moved there in February, around the time Russia launched its attack on Ukraine.
This isn’t the first time superpowers have employed sea mammals to help them with their agenda. During World War I, UK’s Royal Navy bribed trained circus sea lions to find submarines. The sea lions, however, got bored and simply swam away. The Soviet army trained dolphins during the Cold War to detect submarines and flag mines, and protect ships and harbours.
However, America was the first country to employ these animals in the Navy. In 1960, when military researchers wanted to design better missiles, they based its anatomy on that of a dolphin. These Cetaceans are limber and aerodynamic underwater. During this time, researchers realized dolphins were trainable. Among other things, they also communicate using echolocation or SONAR to detect underwater mines and things electronic and mechanical systems can’t find. Being as deft as they are, dolphins are less likely to accidentally set off those mines. Dolphins can also swim faster than people and adapt better without having to deal with decompression sickness. They make excellent water patrol animals.
The U.S. Navy now has a Marine Mammal Training Programme based in San Diego, California. They used dolphins during the Vietnam War; the Navy even flew nine dolphins to an Iraqi port on the Persian Gulf to identify mines. Along with America and Russia, even North Korea and Israel have marine-mammal programs. Apart from marine animals, various terrestrial animals have also been used for spying.
The Navy doesn’t train dolphins not to fight off soldiers or missiles. Instead, these animals locate well-hidden underwater mines so the Navy can map their presence and avoid them. Dolphins also alert the Navy about nearby enemy swimmers. According to Sutton, the dolphins in the Black Sea base could prevent Ukrainian special operations forces from infiltrating the harbor and sabotaging Russian warships.
However, this has posed an ethical problem against the practice. Is endangering these intelligent mammals for war justified? Activists have rallied to end military training of these animals, but because of their unparalleled functionality, this may continue for a few years.