Until just recently, the US Navy “employed” dolphins for bomb-sniffing duties. The dolphins stayed mostly out of harm’s way, but not entirely, and the Humane Society and others naturally had some concerns. Everyone seemed pretty well in agreement that deciding to gradually replace them with bomb-sniffing robots, as the Navy began doing last year, was a good thing.
In the Ukraine, they took a slightly different tack, as Wired reported in October. Rather than phasing their dolphins out, the Ukrainians have expanded their dolphins’ repertoire to include stabbing and shooting. And now a new report suggests several of the aquatic killers are on the loose.
According to the Russian news service RIA Novosti, to which the Wired story was sourced, the practice of training killer dolphins revives an old Soviet tradition: Back in the 1970s and 80s, Soviets fixed knives or pistols to dolphins’ heads “for counter-combat swimmer tasks in order to defend ships in port and on raids,” as a source quoted by RIA put it.
After the break-up of the Soviet Union, it seems, the Ukrainian Navy’s dolphin program was refocused “for civilian tasks such as working with disabled children, in order to keep the unit intact,” RIA reports.
Not so, today, apparently. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry refuses to confirm it trains the dolphins for combat at all, “despite the frequent appearance in Ukrainian media of photographs of dolphins with military equipment strapped to them,” RIA notes. It denies, hence, that its killer dolphins are on the loose. But local Ukrainian media reported otherwise. Three, they say, escaped during training exercises earlier this month and haven't come back.
It seems highly possible that the killer dolphins still have knives or pistols strapped to their domes, considering they escaped during a training exercise. It’s impossible for now to know for sure. These are also somewhat shadowy reports by a state-owned Russian news agency. But if the news is true, experts cited in the report are guessing the dolphins left to find mates. Let’s hope they don’t snuggle up too close.