Science

Dolphin Commandos Escape: Three 'Marines' Have Escaped Their Ukrainian Handlers

By Sean Kane , Mar 12, 2013 06:35 PM EDT

Three Ukrainian dolphin commandos are loose in the Crimea.

The dolphins are trained to search for mines, plant explosives and even attack divers. The dolphins are housed at a base in Sevastopol, a Crimean port on the Black Sea. Earlier this month, Ukrainian media reported that only two of five dolphins returned from a training exercise.

Despite their absence, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry denied that some of its naval attack dolphins have gone missing. In fact, the Ukrainian government even refused to confirm that their navy uses the dolphins, ignoring the many appearances of dolphins wearing military equipment in Ukrainian news (maybe they’re just dolphin actors?).

“Control over dolphins was quite common in the 1980s,” Yury Plyachenko, formerly a naval anti-sabotage officer in the Soviet Union, told Russia’s Ria Novosti. “If a male dolphin saw a female dolphin during the mating season, then he would immediately set off after her. But they came back in a week or so.”

The Soviet Union began training naval attack dolphins in Sevastopol in 1973, to find mines, attack enemy combat swimmers, and carry explosives on their heads (which probably made them the cutest little torpedos ever).

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and the historic Black Sea fleet was divided between the Russian and Ukrainian navies, the “killer dolphins” and their specialist trainers went to Ukraine. Under Ukrainian command, the dolphins were also used for civilian tasks, including working with disabled children. So, just to make sure everything is clear, there are now three Soviet-trained, mating-season-crazed dolphin commandos, trained to kill divers, plant explosives and play with handicapped children, roaming around the Black Sea.

Not all of the Soviet dolphins went to Ukraine though. As the BBC reported, in 2000, Russia sold 27 aquatic attack mammals, including dolphins, sea lions, walruses, seals and one beluga whale, to Iran. Hopefully they’ll keep a closer eye on their attack dolphins.

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