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Use of Dolphins & Sea Lions in Warfare - A collection of related articles

1) Sea lions called to duty in Persian Gulf [USA TODAY]
2) Navy Robots, Dolphins to Search Persian Gulf for Unseen Threats [NPR]
3) Unarmed But Dangerous Sea Lions, Porpoises Deployed to Bahrain to Protect U.S. Military [ABC News]
4) Navy's underwater allies: Dolphins [North County Times]
5) Iran buys kamikaze dolphins [BBC]
6) Dolphins Help Spot Mines in Iraq War [AP]
7) Dolphins help Navy clear mines from harbor [Mercury News]

Sea lions called to duty in Persian Gulf
By Donna Leinwand, USA TODAY
Copyright USA Today

MANAMA, Bahrain -- The U.S. Navy has deployed sea lions trained as underwater sentries to protect ships in the Persian Gulf from terrorists.

The sea lions, part of the Navy's overall security plan, were sent to the Gulf after the Navy picked up reports that terrorists may use divers to lash explosives to the bottoms of ships, says Lt. (j.g.) Josh Frey, a spokesman for the Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

It is the closest the sea lions, which have long been used in U.S. military training, have come to combat.

The sea lions are trained to detect swimmers or divers approaching military ships or piers. The animals carry a clamp in their mouths. They approach the swimmer quietly from behind and attach the clamp, which is connected to a rope, to the swimmer's leg. With the person restrained, sailors aboard ships can pull the swimmer out of the water.

"The potential is incredible," says Tom LaPuzza, spokesman for the Navy's Marine Mammal Program. When sonar detects an object near a ship or pier, the usual response is to drop concussion grenades, LaPuzza says. "What if it's one of your guys? The sea lions sound out an alarm and put the object in control until people can assess whether it's Seaman Jones being an idiot or it's an enemy with bombs," he says.

A sea lion attaches the spring clamp by pressing it against a swimmer's leg. Navy officials say the sea lions, part of the Shallow Water Intruder Detection System program, are so well-trained that the clamp is on the swimmer before he is aware of it. "He's going to be there and be gone in only a second," LaPuzza says. "You won't know anything was there until you have the clamp on your leg."

The sea lions operate in shallow water, usually in harbors and around piers. Normally used to retrieve practice mines from the ocean, this is the first time that they will demonstrate their new skills as underwater guards in what could become a combat area.

The Navy has a history of training sea mammals. Six dolphins patrolled around the USS La Salle, the 3rd Fleet flagship, when it sat in the harbor in Bahrain in 1987 and 1988. Ships in the La Salle's command group were escorting Kuwaiti oil tankers through areas that had been mined by Iraq.

Training of sea mammals started in 1960 when the Navy purchased a dolphin to study its hydrodynamics, how it moves swiftly and efficiently through the water. The service hoped to adapt the animal's hydrodynamic secrets for a new torpedo design. Although a dolphin-like torpedo never panned out, the Navy learned more about dolphins' sonar systems and ability to navigate and find objects underwater. Civilian scientists working for the Navy began training the animals to perform tasks in water too deep for human divers.

A bottle-nosed dolphin became the Navy's first sea mammal to complete an open ocean military exercise in 1965. Tuffy delivered supplies to Sea Lab II 200 feet underwater.

As the program evolved, the Navy recruited beluga whales and sea lions and broadened their training. The animals could deliver equipment to divers, locate and retrieve equipment, detect and mark underwater mines, conduct underwater surveillance and guard ships and submarines.

Sea lions, which have extraordinary underwater directional hearing and can see in near-darkness, can home in on the pinging devices in mines. They can attach recovery lines to objects so a crane can haul them back to land.

In all, 20 sea lions from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center San Diego have been trained. The military won't say how many are working in Bahrain's harbor. The sea lions traveled to the Gulf by plane with their handlers and two veterinarians.

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Copyright USA Today


Hunting for Mines
Navy Robots, Dolphins to Search Persian Gulf for Unseen Threats
Copyright NPR

Jan. 28, 2003 -- U.S. Navy ships operating in the Persian Gulf face an unseen threat from underwater mines. Iraq laid several thousand in the first Gulf War, and military officials are also concerned about mines set by terrorists. In the past, the United States has been criticized for avoiding the dull and dangerous job of hunting mines. But as NPR's Eric Niiler reports, the Navy is trying to catch up, using everything from underwater robots to dolphins.

Since World War II, 14 U.S. ships have been sunk or damaged by mines, while only two have been sunk by enemy fire. Sitting underwater until they're detonated by the sound of a passing ship, mines are cheap and effective. Robert Martinage, a senior defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, says mines are used by more than 50 nations, and new technology is making them harder than ever to detect.

During the Gulf War, Iraq blocked U.S. Marines from landing by stringing the Kuwait shoreline with mines. In deeper water offshore, mines also severely damaged two U.S. warships. After the war, minesweepers removed 13,000 mines from the Persian Gulf. But military officials say some may still remain.

An expert panel from the National Academy of Sciences found in 2001 that the United States was largely unprepared to deal with mine warfare. Since then, Navy researchers have rolled out several kinds of underwater robots designed to look for mines along shorelines or in harbors and send back data before U.S. ships arrive. The Navy's newest mine-hunter looks like a 5-foot-long torpedo and can be dropped over the side of a small boat.

These robots have already been used to look for terrorist mines around ships docked in San Diego and Norfolk, Va. But they still have their limits, says Thomas Swean, program director at the Office of Naval Research in Alexandria, Va.

"One of the things you're worried about is fishing nets, they'll grab you," says Swean.

Unmanned vehicles also have trouble communicating underwater, and analyst Martinage says most of them only have enough power for about a day.

The new machines aren't the only solution; the Navy also uses marine mammals. For 30 years, the Navy has been training dolphins to find objects on the seafloor and mark them with a floating buoy. So far, the dolphins are more reliable than the unmanned robots, says Navy Commander Melanie Branson of the Pacific Third Fleet in San Diego, Calif.

"Basically they work alongside a boat, they have a handler, and they work for fish," she says.

Despite years of protests by animal rights' groups, Navy officials say the dolphins are well taken care of and are not put in harm's way.

Trained dolphins detected World War II-era mines off the Norwegian coast last year and even guarded the Navy's flagship in Bahrain in 1986 and 1987. But one thing robots and dolphins can't do is destroy the mines they find. That's left to the Navy's human divers, many of whom have already been sent to the Persian Gulf.

Listen to All Things Considered audio

The military plans to deploy unmanned vehicles, including the REMUS model shown above, to scour the Persian Gulf waters for mines. Credit: Office of Naval Research

Autonomous crawlers may represent the next wave in unmanned mine-detection vehicles. These small robots can move across shallow seafloors onto beaches. Credit: Office of Naval Research

Dolphins have long been part of the Navy's anti-mine arsenal. The dolphins are trained to use their natural sonar to find underwater mines and tag them. Maui, shown here, was one of the first Navy dolphins. Credit: U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program


Unarmed But Dangerous Sea Lions, Porpoises Deployed to Bahrain to Protect U.S. Military
By John McWethy
Copyright ABC News

S A N D I E G O, Calif., Jan. 30
— The U.S. military is experimenting with trained sea lions as a way of providing security for the huge American port complex in Bahrain.

Sources say the Navy decided to acknowledge the experiment, at least in part, because the sea lions were making so much noise in their pens at Bahrain harbor, home of the Navy's largest facility in the Persian Gulf.

Sea lions are not native to those waters and typically bark loudly when excited. There was no way their presence, officials decided, could be kept secret. No final decision has been made on whether the sea lions will stay.

The animals — along with dolphins and a beluga whale or two — are trained as part of the Navy's Marine Mammal Program in San Diego. They are trained to hunt for mines, to locate objects lost in deep water and to provide harbor security.

Intelligence officials have warned repeatedly about the threat of terrorists using divers to blow up ships. That's what both the sea lions and the dolphins are trained to deal with, among other things.

Working with human handlers, the sea lions are trained to locate unexpected swimming intruders, to snap a locking clamp on an arm or leg, then leave.

The clamp is connected to a rope and signal buoy that humans with guns would then reel up, presumably pulling up a human on the other end. In theory, the animals would not be hurt. Their contact with a potential terrorist — who would presumably be surprised — would last only an instant as they briefly made contact.

Eric Jensen, a veterinarian with the Navy program said: "When you study the animals and you come to realize what they can do in their own environment, the aquatic environment, it's no surprise that we have not been able to build a machine that can do what they do."

Sea Lions, Unlike Dolphins, Can Battle the Elements

Why sea lions?

During the Persian Gulf War and several times after, the Navy used specially trained dolphins to pull harbor guard duty. But their handlers discovered as the weather heated up and the water got warmer in the Gulf, the dolphins became sluggish and far less effective.

Officials say sea lions do not appear to be bothered as much by rising water temperature and they have one other advantage. Unlike a dolphin, a sea lion could continue chasing an enemy — if it came to that — onto dry land.


Navy's underwater allies: Dolphins
By Gidget Fuentes, Staff Writer
Photos by Hayne Palmour
Copyright North County Times

POINT LOMA ---- When it comes to operating in dangerous shores or deep oceans, the U.S. military often turns to a unique force based in Point Loma: marine mammals.

The Navy uses 65 bottlenose dolphins, 15 sea lions and two whales to help detect dangerous mines in deep waters, find combat divers, and haul tools and equipment to underwater labs.

Dolphins help clear mines or help prevent enemy divers "from blowing up a ship," said Tom LaPuzza, a spokesman for the San Diego-based Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, which runs the Navy's $15 million Marine Mammal Program. "They protect people's lives. Basically, that's what they are there for."

Hapa, a 24-year-old male bottle-nose dolphin, opened his mouth wide to signal that he's ready for another fish treat as he was being moved in a padded transport mat towards the stern of the USS Duluth to be put on a small Navy power boat for a mine search exercise off San Diego. Hapa was one of four Navy dolphins on the USS Duluth that were participating in the Kernal Blitz training exercises.

Navy marine mammal handler Marshall Palmer put his hand on Hapa as he was being transported to the stern of the USS Duluth to be put on a small Navy power boat.

Recently, eight dolphins and five sea lions joined 15,000 troops for the military exercise "Kernel Blitz '01" recently off Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. The sleek gray dolphins, operating from portable pools on ships, helped find and mark test mines during Navy and Marine Corps mine-hunting and amphibious training. The sea lions recovered test mines at the end of the exercise.

Program officials say the training is important for their dolphins and sea lions, including some that the Navy has used in real military situations.

Navy dolphins have been deployed to so-called "hot zones" twice in their program's history, first in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971 and then in the Persian Gulf from 1987 to 1988 to help protect the USS LaSalle, then the Navy's flagship in the region, LaPuzza said.

The unique unit also has served in peacetime. During the 1996 Republican Convention in San Diego, dolphins were used in San Diego Bay to help provide security along the convention center's waterfront.

"The concern was: What if? What are you going to do if something comes in along the water?" LaPuzza recalled.

Military use criticized

Until 1992, the public knew little about the Marine Mammal Program, which the Navy kept a classified secret. Even at the Cold War's end, Navy officials still remained elusive about program details.

Navy officials say the animals are safe, healthy and cared for in a good environment.

LaPuzza said the dolphins live and operate in a more-natural sea-water environment where they can interact with other marine life, rather than in tanks.

Since the 1960s, animal-rights activists have opposed the animals' custody and use for military missions.

In 1990, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society persuaded the Navy to stop using dolphins in Puget Sound and has pushed for ways to safely reintroduce into the wild older dolphins retired by the Navy.

A longtime critic of dolphin captivity and military uses is Richard O'Barry, author of "To Free A Dolphin," founder of The Dolphin Project and dolphin trainer for the 1960s TV show, "Flipper."

"I like the Navy," O'Barry, a former sailor, said from his Florida home. "But what is wrong with it is using dolphins as 'advanced biological weapons systems.' "

The dolphin's attractiveness is its keen sonar system, which is "so sophisticated, it makes our sonar ---- the Navy's best sonar ---- a toy," he said.

O'Barry said he first learned of the program 40 years ago, when the CIA sought to recruit him to help it use dolphins in Cold War efforts. Like those of Russia and other foreign militaries, he said, the program "is intended to use dolphins to kill people."

Navy officials declined to respond to O'Barry's comments.

Learning from dolphins

Dolphins first became part of the Navy in 1960. Scientists studying the dolphins' hydrodynamics thought their smooth skin and speed could help design better submarines, ship hulls and weapons.

Dolphins hear and navigate by using their natural sonar, and scientists soon realized that this trait is more precise than some modern man-made sonar systems.

In 1965, a Navy dolphin carried tools and mail 200 feet between the surface and personnel in the underwater laboratory off the coast of La Jolla. The fact that the dolphins could run untethered and return home drew interest from Navy leaders.

By nature, dolphins are naturally reliable and trustworthy animals who seem to enjoy pleasing their human handlers, LaPuzza said. When they are released into the ocean for missions, "they come back to the handler, the trainer" ashore or on a ship.

Of nearly 500,000 releases so far in the Navy program, only nine animals were lost and never found, he said. Most disappeared in sudden storms near the Hawaiian Islands. To date, LaPuzza said that no animal has been lost in a mission.

The mammals themselves do present enough weight or mass to detonate any of the live mines, he said.

Today, in addition to the 65 Atlantic or Pacific bottlenose dolphins, the Navy program includes 15 sea lions and two white beluga whales.

Sea lions have good hearing and can dive much deeper than dolphins. They are used to mark mines and retrieve torpedoes or practice mines and are twice as effective at recovering mines than human divers, LaPuzza said. "We figure it saves us about $1 million a year."

The white beluga whales, which go deeper to recover inert torpedoes, are currently on loan from SeaWorld, he said.

Home on the bay

The marine mammals are housed at a bayside complex near the Point Loma Navy Submarine Base. The dolphins live in a complex of four 30-foot by 30-foot individual floating pens connected to a 30-foot by 60-foot "living area."

They are trained, fed and cared for by about 35 Navy civilian handlers, plus contracted trainers and sailors. An Army veterinarian, three veterinary technicians and a civilian Navy worker provide full-time medical care, LaPuzza said.

The dolphins range in age from under 1 year to 42 years, with 12 animals more than 30 years old, LaPuzza said.

Six dolphins are pregnant. New mothers and calves are kept together, a practice that parallels the normal bonding in nature, LaPuzza noted. This has an added benefit, he said: Trainers teach the mothers, whose behaviors in turn are mimicked by their youngsters.

The Navy feeds about 20 pounds of fish, including cod, mackerel and squid, to each dolphin daily, depending on its health, environmental conditions and training routine. A dolphin preparing for a training mission in the colder Alaskan waters, for example, may get more fish "to build up a blubber layer," LaPuzza said.

Training is a constant, he said.

Trainers daily get the dolphins to do certain behaviors, such as waving their fins out of the water or rolling over on their side, by feeding them fish. The trainer then can inspect the fin or a veterinarian can draw blood for laboratory analysis.

Constant checks are important, he said, because the animals "are very good at masking their symptoms until, sometimes, they are dead."

A sick dolphin can be vulnerable to attacks from predators such as sharks, so trainers keep a constant keen eye on the dolphins. For a recent military exercise in Alaska, one dolphin had the sniffles, LaPuzza said. "We kept him home."

The Navy gets about 20 to 25 years of service for each dolphin. "They tend to be very good at what they do for a long period of time," LaPuzza said. "We're learning more as we go that the capabilities of the animals still go on."

Dolphin operations in shallow waters is the Navy's newest area of training. Officials say waters 10 to 40 feet deep are a tough place for Navy sonar systems and crews to find and hunt for mines. But LaPuzza said a dolphin's sonar works better than mechanical sonars in shallow waters because dolphins can hone in on specific sounds even around the clutter of noises from boat engines, people, waves and water lapping against a pier.

A dolphin, he explained, can hear through the din and focus better. "The animals work best in shallow water, where there's lots of noise," he added.

Contact staff writer Gidget Fuentes at (760) 901-4072 or [email protected]



Wednesday, 8 March, 2000, 16:45 GMT
Iran buys kamikaze dolphins
Copyright BBC

Dolphins have been put to military use since the 1960s

Dolphins trained to kill for the Soviet navy have been sold to Iran - but what they will do in the Persian Gulf is a mystery.

Dolphins and other aquatic mammals were trained by Russian experts to attack warships and enemy frogmen, but when funding for the project ceased, many were moved to a private dolphinarium to perform for tourists.

Their chief trainer, both in military and civilian life, was Boris Zhurid, who began his career as a submariner before graduating from a medical academy.

Starving animals

Earlier this month he sold the entire collection to Iran, because he could no longer afford to feed it.

"If I were a sadist then I could have remained in Sevastopol," Mr Zhurid told the Russian newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda.

The dolphins were trained to identify enemy propellers

"But I cannot bear to see my animals starve ... We're out of medicine, which costs thousands of dollars, and have no more fish or food supplements."

Sevastopol-based journalist, Arkady Volondyn, told the BBC that the biggest problem came during the winter period, when there were no tourists.

In total, 27 animals, including walruses, sea lions, seals, and a white beluga whale, were loaded with the dolphins into a Russian transport aircraft for the journey from Sevastopol, on the Crimean peninsula, in the Black Sea, to the Persian Gulf.

Three cormorants were also among the cargo.


Four of the dolphins and the white whale underwent training with Mr Zhurid at a Pacific naval base, before being transferred to Crimea in 1991.

An American-trained dolphin in action in the Gulf in the 1980s

The animals were trained to attack enemy frogmen with harpoons attached to their backs, or to drag them to the surface to be taken into captivity.

They could also undertake kamikaze strikes against enemy shipping carrying mines that would explode a ship on contact with its hull.

The dolphins could allegedly distinguish foreign and Soviet submarines by the sound of their propeller.

According to research by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, numerous ex-Soviet military dolphins have been sold to aquariums around the world.

Many have been kept in poor conditions on arrival, and others have died en route.

But Mr Zhurid said Iran had built a new oceanarium to his specification, and that he would be continuing his scientific research there.


Komsomolskaya Pravda points out that Mr Zhurid's research was primarily of a military nature, and describes the dolphins as "mercenaries".

"In essence, Iran has bought our former secret weapon from Ukraine on the cheap," the Russian newspaper wrote.

It also pointed out that the USA has in the past raised objections to some Russian military sales to Iran.

Mr Zhurid remained vague on the role he and the animals would play, but he said: "I am prepared to go to Allah, or even to the devil, as long as my animals will be OK there


PBS: The Story of Navy Dolphins
Copyright PBS

The Navy's Marine Mammal Program began in 1960 with two goals. First, the Navy wanted to study the underwater sonar capabilities of dolphins and beluga whales to learn how to design more efficient methods of detecting objects underwater, and to improve the speed of their boats and submarines by researching how dolphins are able to swim so fast and dive so deep. In addition to this research component, the Navy also trained dolphins, beluga whales, sea lions and other marine mammals to perform various underwater tasks, including delivering equipment to divers underwater, locating and retrieving lost objects, guarding boats and submarines, and doing underwater surveillance using a camera held in their mouths. Dolphins were used for some of these tasks in the Vietnam War and in the Persian Gulf. The Marine Mammal Program was originally classified, and was at its peak during the Cold War. The Soviet Union's military was conducting similar research and training programs in the race to dominate the underwater front. At one point during the 1980's, the U.S. program had over 100 dolphins, as well as numerous sea lions and beluga whales, and an operating budget of $8 million dollars. By the 1990's, however, the Cold War was over, and the Navy's Marine Mammal project was downsized. In 1992, the program bec ame declassified. Many of the dolphins were retired, and controversy arose over whether or not it would be feasible to return unnecessary dolphins to the wild. ÝSpecific Tasks Navy marine mammals are trained to perform many underwater duties, including

Bottlenose dolphins detect and mark of underwater mines. The animal locates a mine and then deposits a weighted buoy line near the mine in order to mark it.

California sea lions attach grabber devices to underwater objects for retrieval. This system is used extensively in training exercises with divers for Explosive Ordnance Disposal units. Practice mines are placed on the sea floor; those not found by the divers during the exercise are retrieved by the sea lions.

Bottlenose dolphins are used to detect and defend against enemy swimmers. This procedure was used in both the Vietnam war and the Persian Gulf to protect Navy anchored vessels from enemy swimmers seeking to plant explosives. The dolphins would swim slowly, patroling the area with their sonar, and alert armed trainer guards if they located a swimmer. They are also trained to "tag" the enemy swimmer with a marker so that Navy personnel can apprehend him. During the Vietnam war, rumors circulated about a "swimmer nullification program" in which dolphins were also being trained to shoot at enemy swimmers with a device similar to the tagging device. The Navy denies that any such program existed or that any dolphin has ever been trained to attack a human. - - - - - - - - - - - -

1960's navy begins use of marine mammals

1965 sea lab II
In 1965, the Marine Mammal Program began its first military project: Sea Lab II. Working in the waters off La Jolla, California, a bottlenosed dolphin named Tuffy completed the first successful open ocean military exercise. He repeatedly dove 200 feet to the Sea Lab II installation, carrying mail and tools to navy personnel. He was also trained to guide lost divers to safety.

1965-75 dolphins used in vietnam
The Navy sent five dolphins to Cam Ranh Bay to perform underwater surveillance and guard military boats from enemy swimmers. Although during this era rumors circulated about a "swimmer nullification program" through which dolphins were trained to attack and kill enemy swimmer, the Navy denies such a program ever existed.

1975 introduction of sea lions and beluga whales
With the success of the dolphin program, the Navy began working with sea lions, training them to recover military hardware or weaponry fired and dropped in the ocean. The sea lions could dive and recover objects at depths of up to 650 feet.
The Navy also began exploring the use of beluga whales, which, like dolphins, use sonar to navigate. Beluga whales could operate at much colder temperatures and deeper depths than either dolphins or sea lions.

1965-75 navy builds up collection of dolphins
The Marine Mammal Program reached its heyday in the 1980's, with an expanded budget and increased number of dolphins. In 1986, Congress partially repealed the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act by letting the Navy collect wild dolphins from for "national defense purposes." The Navy planned to use the dolphins to expand its mine disposal units and to stock a breeding program.

1986-88 dolphins in the persian gulf
The navy sent six dolphins to the Persian Gulf, where they patrolled the harbor in Bahrain to protect US flagships from enemy swimmers and mines, and escorted Kuwaiti oil tankers through potentially dangerous waters. One of the dolphins, "Skippy," died of a bacterial infection.

1986-88 missile guarding project in bangor abandoned
In the late 1980's the Navy began a project through which dolphins would act as guards at the Bangor Washington Trident Missile Base. Animal activists opposed the project, and filed suit against the Navy under the National Environmental Protection Act claiming that the Navy must do an environmental evaluation to determine whether deployment in the cold northern waters off Bangor would harm dolphins originally captured in the Gulf of Mexico. A judge ruled that such a study must be completed before the project could continue. The Navy abandoned the project.
By 1994, the Navy policy on moving dolphins to environments with radically different water temperatures changed; a spokesperson said that in general, the Navy would only move dolphins between environments with a 20 degree difference in temperature, except in emergency situations.

1990s downsizing, declassification, retirement
With the end of the Cold War, the Navy's budget for the marine mammal program was drastically reduced, and all but one of its training centers were closed down. Of the 103 dolphins remaining in the program, the Navy decided it needed only 70 to maintain its downsized operations. Much of the project was declassified, although certain details remain protected.
This raised the question of what to do with the remaining dolphins. In the 1992 Defense Appropriations Act, Congress alloted a half million dollars to the Navy to "to develop training procedures which will allow mammals which are no longer required for this project to be released into their natural habitat." The Navy held two conferences of researchers and experts and determined that a reintroduction program would not be cost effective.
In an attempt to downsize its dolphin troops, the Navy offered to give its surplus trained dolphins to marine parks. However, interest in the free dolphins was low because many marine parks by this time had developed successful in-house breeding programs. The Navy only got only four requests, but pledged to care for the unclaimed dolphins until their deaths.
Later in 1994, the Navy agreed to send three dolphins to Sugarloaf sanctuary, near Key West in Florida, a rehabilitation facility run by Ric O'Barry. O'Barry planned to reeducate the dolphins so they could be safely released into the wild, once the necessary federal permits were granted.

1996 illegal release of Luther and Buck
Two of the dolphins being held at the Sugarloaf Sanctuary, Luther and Buck, were being prepared for life in the wild while awaiting federal permits for their release. In May, before the permits had been issued, O'Barry released the dolphins into the Gulf of Mexico. He believed that the dolphins were ready for release and that the bureaucratric requirements for a permit were designed to prevent the release of the Navy dolphins. He thought that to wait any longer before letting them go would jeopardize their chances of successful adaptation to the wild.
read O'Barry's defense of his actions, and criticism of the release from Naomi Rose
The dolphins were recaptured less than two weeks later and returned to the Navy. All three of these dolphins are now back with the Navy. One of them is still in Florida;the other two are back in San Diego in the Navy facility there.

1997 Ukrainian dolphins trained by the Soviet Navy for military operations are now being used for therapy with autistic and emotionally disturbed children.


Dolphins Help Spot Mines in Iraq War
U.S. Forces Are Using Dolphins to Help Locate Anti-Ship Mines in Iraq War
March 26, 2003
The Associated Press
CAMP AS SALIYAH, Qatar March 26 — Coalition forces have brought in two specially trained bottle-nosed Atlantic dolphins to help ferret out mines in the approaches of the port of Umm Qasr, Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart of the Central Command said Tuesday.

The dolphins will help clear the way for the shipment of humanitarian aid to allied-held southern Iraq, Renuart said.

"Our maritime forces are hard at work supporting air operations, maintaining security to the Arabian Gulf for all shipping and completing the difficult task of de-mining Iraqi waters," Renuart said. "They're even using some unique techniques. We have some specially trained dolphins that are out there helping us to determine where mines may be in the channels."

The dolphins, named Makai and Tacoma, were flown into Umm Qasr by U.S. Navy helicopters Tuesday night and were expected to begin searching for mines on Wednesday, according to pool reports.

The dolphins are taught to avoid touching the mines, which might cause them to explode, said Capt. Mike Tillotson, a Navy bomb disposal expert. He said there was little risk to animals doing this kind of work.

The biggest hazard could come from other indigenous dolphins in the waters of Umm Qasr.

Dolphins are territorial and there is a fear local dolphins might drive the interlopers out, causing them to go AWOL.

The Navy started using marine mammals in the early 1960s, when military researchers began looking into how sea mammals' highly developed senses like dolphins' sonar could be harnessed to locate mines and do other underwater tasks.

Dolphins were used in the 1970s during the Vietnam War. In the late 1980s, six Navy dolphins patrolled the Bahrain harbor to protect U.S. ships from enemy swimmers and mines and escorted Kuwaiti oil tankers through potentially dangerous waters.


Posted on Sat, Mar. 29, 2003

Dolphins help Navy clear mines from harbor
By Brandon Bailey
Copyright The Mercury News

A long-awaited British ship, loaded with humanitarian supplies destined for suffering civilians, steamed into a southern Iraqi port on Friday after the harbor was cleared of explosive mines by a U.S. Navy team using dolphins.

That's right, dolphins.

And in the Bay Area on Friday, a local Army Reserve officer who helped train the marine mammals stepped forward to defend their use by the military, which has come under criticism from animal-welfare groups in the United States.

``These dolphins are playing a huge part in our efforts. I want everyone to know that their safety is a top priority for the military,'' said Lt. Paula Rood, who worked with one of the dolphins, an Atlantic bottlenose named Makai, when she was part of an Army veterinary unit in Hawaii more than a decade ago.

The dolphins aren't the only animals assisting the 21st-century military. The Navy also has sea lions trained to detect swimming saboteurs. The Army and Marine Corps are using chickens and pigeons as an early-warning system to monitor for poison gas.

Rood said she is proud the dolphin program remains active. A nurse in civilian life, she is now on active duty with the Army's 91st Division, a reserve unit based at Camp Parks in Alameda County, and keeps a photograph of herself with Makai on her desk.

She said she was thrilled to see news photos this week that showed Makai and another dolphin named Takoma working the waters off the recently captured Iraqi port of Umm Qasr.

Using sonar

The arrival of the British ship, RFA Sir Galahad, had been delayed for several days after mines were discovered in the harbor. For the past week, a U.S. Navy demolition team has been using the trained dolphins to search the harbor waters for explosives.

After the dolphins locate the mines, using a natural form of sonar known as echolocation, they are trained to mark the sites with buoys and then swim away so that human demolition experts can either disable or safely detonate the mines. Officials said no dolphins were hurt during their mission.

Also on duty in the Persian Gulf: a team of sea lions trained by the Navy to protect boats and harbors by locating enemy swimmers who may be trying to plant explosives. The sea lions are trained to attach a restraint device to the swimmer's leg and then speed away, so human guards can investigate further.

Contrary to some reports, however, Navy spokesman Tom Lapuzza said the sea lions are not directly engaged in the war with Iraq. They are demonstrating their abilities at a harbor in Bahrain.

The Navy has been training marine mammals for similar tasks since the 1960s off the coasts of Hawaii, Southern California and Florida. Dolphins were used to patrol Cam Rahn Bay in Vietnam during the war there. They also provided coastal security during the 1996 Republican presidential convention in San Diego.

But the use of any critter for military purposes doesn't sit well with some animal-welfare groups, which argue that the practice is unethical and unsafe.

``Our troops deserve the best defense possible, but PETA opposes the use of dolphins, sea lions or any other marine mammals,'' said Stephanie Boyles, a biologist with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. She called the program ``cruel.''

An official at the Humane Society of the United States made a practical argument against relying on animals for military work.

``Dolphins do this kind of thing for fun, or because they think it's interesting,'' said Naomi Rose, a marine scientist with the Humane Society. ``They don't understand: Not just they can be killed, but people can be killed if they fall down on the job.''

Rose stressed that she is not valuing animal lives over human lives. ``If the Navy has concluded that it is better and safer to use dolphins rather than humans, I'm not going to second-guess that,'' she said. ``I'm very concerned about the humans over there.''

Lapuzza, a public-affairs officer for the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, one of the locations where the dolphins are trained, said he had heard the objections before. He said the dolphins are used not because they are considered expendable, but because they have natural underwater detection abilities that are superior to human eyesight or any machine that has been tested to date.

Limited role

Lapuzza said the dolphins are never used to disarm explosives or for any militarily offensive purpose, such as attacking enemy troops or planting bombs at an enemy location.

``You don't give that kind of decision to an animal,'' he said. ``We don't think that's ethical.''

Rood, the Army officer who helped train Makai, said she developed a close bond with the dolphin while teaching him to locate a variety of practice devices in the waters off Honolulu. She stressed that the training is reinforced by rewards -- a bit of squid, a rubdown or the sound of a whistle -- and not punishment.

``I think we need to learn from these animals and use the skills that they have,'' she said.




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