Ukraine's Military Dolphins Captured By Russian Forces Die After Apparently Refusing To Defect

A bottlenose dolphin trains as part of the US Navy's Marine Mammal Program. Pierre G. Georges/US Navy; Public Domain

Robin Andrews 17 May 2018, 17:23

As reported by the Guardian and elsewhere, Ukraine has claimed that their loyal dolphin army that was captured by Russia awhile back refused to defect and instead went on a hunger strike. According to the Ukrainian government’s representative at the occupied Crimean base, the dolphins died “patriotically” as a result.

So, we might need to backtrack a little, eh?

Military dolphins are real-life members of a select few countries’ armed forces, including the US Navy, whose decidedly specialized division of intelligent marine mammals have been operating in waters around the globe since 1959. In fact, the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program – which uses both bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions – has proved highly effective in finding and recovering objects in coastal waters in the open sea.

Like other countries, the US tested a range of marine animals at first, including rays, sea turtles, and sharks. Dolphins (and sea lions) are, however, the most reliable, as they’re “known for their trainability and adaptability to a wide range of marine environments,” according to the program’s website.

They also happen to have excellent low-light vision and underwater hearing capabilities, and they don’t suffer from any decompression sickness at depth, unlike human divers. They are perfectly capable of marking mines and undersea equipment, and although “someday it may be possible to complete these missions with underwater drones… for now, technology is no match for the animals.”

So – what’s the deal with Russia and Ukraine, two countries that, to put it mildly, don’t see eye to eye at the moment?

The Ukrainian Navy also had their own group of military dolphins; 10 of them were on active duty in Sevastopol, and reports seem to suggest that they were trained (originally by the Soviet Union) to perform similar tasks to their American counterparts.

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