Russia is utilizing military-trained dolphins within the Black Sea, in accordance with satellite tv for pc photographs

Russia has deployed military-trained dolphins to guard its Black Sea naval base in Crimea from underwater assault, new satellite tv for pc photographs reveal.

The photographs, taken by the U.S. satellite tv for pc firm Maxar and analyzed by the nonprofit skilled navy affiliation U.S. Naval Institute, present that two dolphin pens have been positioned on the entrance to Sevastopol harbor across the starting of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. The harbor, which sits on the southern tip of Crimea, is a significant port and of significant navy significance to Russia. Whereas lots of the Russian ships anchored there are safely out of missile vary from Ukraine, they might nonetheless be attacked underwater, giving educated bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) an essential function to play of their protection.

Russia has been coaching and deploying marine animals for navy functions because the Nineteen Sixties. All through the Cold War, each the U.S. and the Soviet Union developed marine mammal applications: The U.S. used dolphins and Californian sea lions, whereas the us deployed dolphins in heat waters and beluga whales and seals in Arctic areas.

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The Soviet navy used Sevastopol as a base from which to coach and ship dolphins on operations all through the Chilly Battle, however the marine mammal models got here underneath Ukrainian management — and into disuse after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, when Crimea grew to become a part of Ukraine. Following the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia, the dolphin models got here into Russian arms. Ukraine demanded the return of the animals, however the request was denied by Russia, which has since expanded its marine mammal operations.

Dolphins can talk by high-pitched whistles, they usually additionally sense objects and decide distances by echolocation — sending out high-frequency clicks that bounce again off objects, revealing their proximity to the dolphin. Specifically educated dolphins use this pure sonar to detect and draw consideration to naval mines or enemy divers. Russia additionally claims to be discovering new methods to utilize dolphins’ detecting skills. 

“Our specialists developed new units that convert dolphins’ underwater sonar detection of targets right into a sign to the operator’s monitor,” a supply mentioned to the Russian information company RIA Novosti. “The Ukrainian navy lacked funds for such know-how, and a few tasks needed to be mothballed.” 


Army marine mammal applications are costly; the U.S. Navy spent about $75 million on navy dolphin repairs between 2012 to 2019, Hakai Magazine reported, whereas it’s not publicly identified how a lot Russia spends on its marine mammal applications.

This isn’t the primary time that Russia’s militarized marine mammals have been noticed. In 2018, satellite tv for pc imagery revealed that Russia had deployed dolphins at a base in Tartus, Syria, through the Syrian conflict, according to Forbes. A 12 months later, Norwegian fishermen reported {that a} surprisingly tame beluga whale had been harassing their boats whereas sporting a harness that learn: “Gear of St. Petersburg,” Live Science previously reported.

Maxar, the satellite tv for pc firm which took the images, produces “90% of the foundational geospatial intelligence utilized by the U.S. Authorities for nationwide safety and maintaining troops protected on the bottom,” in addition to the imagery for corporations resembling Google Earth and Google Maps.

Initially printed on Reside Science.


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