March 13, 2013
Experts Believe Ukrainian Killer Dolphins Escaped To Hunt For Mates
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
According to Ukrainian media reports, several military-trained dolphins have abandoned their naval unit to apparently “make love not war.”
Three of the unit´s five dolphins — which have supposedly been trained to use specially designed knives and pistols to attack enemy scuba divers — swam off over two weeks ago after a training exercise, most likely in pursuit of potential mates, according to those familiar with the program.
Some media outlets are reporting the whole story is a fake, as not only did the Ukraine´s Defense Ministry deny that the dolphin commandos have gone AWOL — they also denied that the dolphin commando program even existed. A government statement described the whole story as a “fabrication,” according to Slashgear.
Despite the government´s official denial of the program, the Ukrainian media has been circulating reports and photographs of specially trained and equipped dolphins for years. Accounts of the program´s existence in the Soviet navy go as far back as 1973. In addition to attacking enemy divers, the dolphins were supposedly trained to find deadly mines on the seabed and even attach explosives to enemy ships.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the former country´s Black Sea Fleet was divided into Ukrainian and Russian fleets, with the dolphin program being handed over to the Ukrainian navy. For a while, the dolphins were used for non-military tasks, such as working with disabled children. Some assumed the re-purposing of the program was simply an effort to keep the unit intact.
According to RIA Novosti, a military source in Sevastopol last year told the news agency that the Ukrainian navy had restarted military-style training of dolphins.
Yury Plyachenko, a former Soviet naval anti-sabotage officer, told the state-owned news agency that the marine mammals were known to abandon their units from time to time.
“If a male dolphin saw a female dolphin during the mating season, then he would immediately set off after her,” he said. “But they came back in a week or so.”
Reports about militarized dolphins have been circulating around many countries, including the US, for many years. While the American military does admit that it uses the marine mammals for intelligence purposes, it denies that the animals are trained for actual combat.
According to previous reports, the US Navy began a program around 1960 that trained both dolphins and sea lions to look for mines and other military equipment. Bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions were identified as the most ideal species for military service. The dolphins were chosen primarily for their sonar capabilities and the sea lions´ visual acuity made them an ideal choice.
The Soviet Union and Russia also had a large military dolphin program and besides handing over the program to the Ukraine, the Russians also sold elements of the program to Iran, according to the BBC News.
Boris Zhurid, the chief trainer for the Soviet program, told the BBC News that a lack of funding and resources were key factors in the sale.
"But I cannot bear to see my animals starve,” he said. “We're out of medicine, which costs thousands of dollars, and have no more fish or food supplements."