Dolphins, bats as conscripts in war
Animals in War
When Animals Are Drafted
War Horses – the Engines of Battle
For Kittens of War, Marines are Heroes
All Creatures Great and Small
When Soldiers Deploy
The 80th Commando
Animal Soldiers Go Hi-Tech
Battle Buddy Now Therapy Donkey
Warrior Dog Gets Stem Cell Therapy
Animals, Conspiracies and ‘The Avengers’
Should We Be Testing Weapons of War on Animals?
Stray Dogs of War Take a Bow
The Most Decorated Dog
The Lion of Afghanistan
It’s no fun being a captive dolphin. You’re not with your family; you’re doing tricks in exchange for food; and you don’t get to roam the ocean. Most of us think of marine circuses like SeaWorld, or of scientists in laboratories, when we think of dolphins in captivity. But they’ve also been conscripted into the military — and mostly for programs that are kept heavily under wraps.
If you had to choose between working for the military and entertaining people at a marine circus, it would be a toss-up. With the military, at least you’re not stuck in a small tank your whole life. But your tour of duty probably began when you were captured and drafted at one of the infamous massacres shown in the Oscar-winning move The Cove. And you’ll be doing dangerous things that could well kill you. At least three dolphins were killed off the coast of San Diego in March in what the Navy justified as a “mission critical” operation.
Bottlenose dolphins, the species of choice, are trained to alert their navy partners to protect ships and harbors from terrorists and other enemy combatants, to search out mines and other suspicious objects underwater, and to leave an acoustic transponder close by so divers can then find the weapon’s location.
The U.S. Navy trains dolphins and also sea lions under the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program, which is based in San Diego, California. There are about 75 dolphins are in the program, and military dolphins were used by the U.S. Navy during the First and Second Gulf Wars.
The Soviet (now Russian) Navy used to operate a dolphin program, but is believed to have shut it down in the early 1990s. In 2000, it was reported that dolphins trained to kill by the Soviet Navy had been sold to Iran.
It’s also rumored that dolphins have been trained to lay underwater mines, to go on suicide missions to seek and destroy submarines, to use poison darts in assassination ops. The U.S. Navy denies all of this, and answers other questions here.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there were reports that 36 military dolphins went missing in the Gulf of Mexico, armed with poisoned darts. Accident investigator Leo Sheridan, 72, said he had received intelligence from sources close to the U.S. government’s marine fisheries service confirming dolphins had escaped:
“My concern is that they have learned to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire.”
Again, the Navy dismisses these reports.