Can Putin’s army really train dolphins for ‘commando missions’? Marineland asked

Finding a masqueraded beluga off the coast of Norway (with the inscription “St. Petersburg equipment”), the “Battle of Dolphins” is scattered throughout the Crimea … As surreal as it seems, this information was published by the media around the world shortly after the beginning of the Russian The invasion of Ukraine decided by Vladimir Putin, they are part of a long tradition of animals trained by the armed forces to participate in the war effort.

Dogs, pigeons, cats, elephants, cetaceans… they are not the only horses capable of supporting humans during conflicts. Withholding secrets about the use of marine mammals for military purposes is actually a rather old practice, which has been resorted to by many militaries, particularly American and Russian, in recent decades. On April 27, the United States Naval Institute (a country whose military says it has stopped it “workouts” on animals), with supporting satellite imagery, that Russia has moved two dolphin pens to its base in Crimea.

As for the behavior of these marine animals, and more specifically for dolphins (who wanted to remain anonymous to show that their employer, Marineland in Antibes, strongly condemns these aggressive practices), dolphins actually have “Exceptional cognitive and physical abilities, allowing them to learn to discover certain objects, to place them in specific places, and to put them back. These objects can be, for example, beacons. But for this, long professional training and mutual trust are essential.”

concretely, “We send them into an area, and they go by echolocation to identify mines, and then they put a marker, and a weight with a wire, which will raise a little buoy to the surface. And there we know there might be something.”, explains French Admiral Axel Morashini. Same approach to combat swimmers. The dolphin, equipped with a camera or not, detects the location of the swimmer and then locates the swimmer via a small beacon that will appear on the surface, the former clearance diver adds.

Programs from the sixties

“Simple” skills, but useful in times of war, especially when it comes to reaching depths inaccessible to humans, to spy on the enemy. “The dolphin has an extraordinary detection ability. It is a very effective animal in detecting martial swimmers in shallow waters”It boasts a military resource.

Then their “Pavlovian” behavior would be a spy report: If an animal, for example, has been trained to tilt its head to the right when it detects an object or a person, The behaviorist in Marineland adds, It will reproduce this behavior as soon as it surfaces. Thus it can indicate the presence of the said things or people.. Hopes for a reward.

Realizing the potential of these mammals equipped with the world’s most advanced sonar equipment, the United States and Russia, since the 1960s, began training programs for dolphins for military purposes. “When the KGB learned what American dolphins could do, our military decided to take an interest in the matter,” Viktor Baranets explained in 2016, a retired Russian officer.

According to him, at that time, Soviet dolphins were trained to plant explosives on enemy ships and detect abandoned torpedoes and wrecks on the bottom of the Black Sea.

Trained animals do not distinguish between good and evil

Is the image of a commando dolphin on a suicide mission, a bomb strapped near the dorsal fin, today pure fiction? “There, we are in the imagination of a ‘James Bond movie animal’, capable of carrying out a special operation”, Explain counter behaviour. “The dolphin is by nature a peaceful animal, and you cannot change its nature.” Even if we have the strength and patience of the Russian army. “However, the transfer of things, whatever the nature of the thing being moved, can be imagined.”

is that cetaceans, by definition, make no difference between working for a charitable cause or for an evil enterprise. Dolphins may attack humans if they feel threatened or because of food, but researchers have done so ‘big doubts’ For purely warlike use. The same goes for sharks, which have inspired many fanciful theories on the Internet. This fish, which has a brain smaller than that of a marine mammal, will not be able to “follow orders”.

So do dolphins and other beluga whales simply have the (much desirable) ability to be able to spot swimmers, mines, or other potentially dangerous objects that are difficult to detect, especially in shallow coastal areas or busy ports? “You have to keep in mind that a combat swimmer sails with pure oxygen, does not emit bubbles, and does not make noise until you detect it, you need active sonar, hence the interest of the dolphin”, A soldier told AFP Tuesday, May 10.

The United States, Russia, North Korea and Israel

We don’t know what learning methods the Russian military or other countries are using,” We explain to Marineland. Some techniques may be commonplace, but the goal of animal healers is quite the opposite.” If beluga and dolphins, thanks to their echolocation, or sea lions and seals thanks to their stopping breathing abilities, are able to serve humans, then only humans take the lead.

According to the United States Naval Institute, Russian dolphin enclosures will now be Entrance to the port of Sevastopol In Crimea, the home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet – a fleet beyond the reach of Ukrainian missiles, but not immune to the sabotage of submarines. It will significantly inhibit intelligent cetaceans “Ukrainian special operations forces to infiltrate underwater port to sabotage warships”.

In 2018, dolphins from the Russian fleet were already deployed to the naval base in Tartus, Syria, according to Asni. With portable attachments “Very similar” For those currently in the port of Sevastopol. To date, in addition to Russia and the United States, two other countries have developed military programs based on marine mammals: North Korea and Israel.

“In European zoos and aquariums, standards and controls are much stricter than in Russia and ethical rules have nothing to do,” Marineland behavioral concludes. So it is difficult to know exactly what the army of a country with looser rules regarding animals can do, in time of war…

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