According to a study of satellite images by the US Naval Institute, two dolphins have been spotted at the entrance to the port of Sebastopol.
Naval News reports an increase in the number of dolphins pens spotted around the naval base and the Kremlin’s warships as Russia ramps up its defense in fear of losing more equipment and lives to Ukraine’s drones.
Thus, media reports estimate that Russia has a group of six or seven dolphins to cover a wider area. They would have started the war with just three or four dolphins.
Moscow was made nervous by a strike that triggered a major fuel tank fire at Sevastapol, which destroyed 10 tanks of oil, or 40,000 tons.
They are probably deployed to protect warships of the Black Sea fleet from Ukrainian sabotage. In fact, it is not the first time they have been used. In 2018, they were deployed for several months at Russia’s Tartous naval base in the Syrian Mediterranean. We could assume they are the same animals today. They are reportedly mainly used to counter enemy divers, retrieve objects from the seabed and conduct intelligence operations.
Russia’s use of marine mammals has its roots in a program launched in 2012 by the Ukrainian navy. It was taken over by Russia following the invasion of Crimea in 2014. Ukrainian sea lions have also been “transferred” as they are trained in the city of Sevastopol. As previously explain, the Russian fleet uses different types of marine animals, each prepared and adapted for a specific region. Beluga whales such as Hvaldimir and seals, both with heavy layers of fat for warmth, are better protected against the cold than the bottlenose dolphins used in the Black Sea.
The genesis of dolphins training
The training of marine mammals started during the arms race in the 1960s. The use of dolphins was pioneered by the US Navy which has a program in San Diego, established in 1959.
Legend has it that the Soviets trained killer dolphins equipped with hypodermic needles loaded with carbon dioxide.
They would train dolphins to become kamikaze. The animal would plant explosives on enemy ships. But controlling the troops isn’t always easy.
In 2013, two-thirds of Russia’s military dolphins disappeared in the Black Sea. They were in search of love, with an military source saying at the time that they had “deserted a naval exercise and went on manoeuvres of an amorous kind. They swam away to look for mates.”
It was discovered that bottlenose dolphins could transmit messages and identify naval threats. That’s why the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program began training them. In particular, they are trained to hunt underwater mines in the ocean.
Nachtigall’s experiments in the mid-1990s with a resident bottlenose dolphin named BJ demonstrated this sensitive ability. Nachtigall asked BJ to distinguish between metal cylinders made of stainless steel, brass or aluminum. Despite burying the four-inch-long objects under two feet of mud, BJ passed with flying colors.
Although Russia and the USA are pioneers in the training and use of marine mammals, other countries are benefiting from this experience.
In 2000, four ex-Soviet dolphins were sold to Iran. The mammals were described as “mercenaries” by the press. Israel is also suspected of using porpoise for military purpose.
However, the use of animals for military purposes raises many concerns and ethical questions. Many environmentalists argue that dolphins and other animals cannot comprehend the risks involved.
And, unlike soldiers, they cannot stop being used. They don’t have the option of taking time on leave or resigning.