New reports reveal how Russia uses military dolphins

The practice is becoming increasingly popular.
Loukia Papadopoulos
A dolphin being trained.jpg
A dolphin being trained.

Pierre G. Georges/Wikimedia Commons 

Last April, we reported that back in 2016, Russia's military was looking for five bottlenose dolphins with good qualities to train them for military purposes.

Following this, in 2017, Russia's state television revealed that the country was experimenting with beluga whales, seals, and bottlenose dolphins to guard the entrances to its naval bases.

Now, a new report by Science Alert has highlighted exactly what the warring nation does with the animals.

“The Russian military is reportedly recruiting bottlenose dolphins to defend the Sevastopol naval base in the Black Sea,” noted the article.

Citing the UK Ministry of Defence, the authors noted that "trained marine mammals" are being kept in pens to deter divers from navigating in restricted areas.

UK intelligence data suggests those pens have almost doubled in numbers in recent weeks indicating that more dolphins are being recruited by Russian authorities. The mammals could be used to notify Russian forces of the presence of divers in the water and even tag the intruders so they're easier to spot.

The benefits of the dolphins come from the fact that no one can outswim them, making them faster than even the best trained divers.

Bottlenose dolphins can achieve impressive speeds of around 18 miles (29 kilometers) per hour in the water. In comparison even the best human swimmers can only reach 6 miles (10 kilometers) per hour.

Science Alert even cited information supplied to Naval News that stated that there might be as many as seven dolphins in service around the Russian port at the moment and that the animals can also be transported to different bases in specially designed cradles meaning they may be operational in more than one location.

It's currently believed that the Russian navy has been using marine animals for years as spy whales have been spotted in the past equipped with Russian equipment. These animals have been reported to be particularly friendly toward humans although the reason behind this might be to rid themselves of their harnesses.

Of course, most of this information remains classified so it’s hard to tell exactly how many marine mammals Russian operatives have working for them. One thing is for sure: the practice is not reserved to Russia.

The U.S. Navy also trains marine mammals both to find equipment lost at sea and to detect intruders entering restricted areas. 

Bottlenose dolphins are famous for their ability to detect mines better and faster than any machine out there and their finely-tuned sonars make them very useful in close-to-shore areas compared to mechanical systems that can be overwhelmed by the excessive noise generated by crashing waves and ship traffic.