According to the new reports, when Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, it took over a Ukrainian military unit that included bottlenose dolphins. The Ukranian “combat dolphins,” based in Sevastopol, were trained to search for and tag underwater mines or unwanted swimmers attempting to access restricted waterways, says RIA Novosti.
Not only Russia, but US use marine mammals for military purposes since 1960. The ability of these animals to detect and find targets at depth or in murky water is something technology can not duplicate which militaries find very valuable for their benefit. California sea lions and bottlenose dolphins have been trained by the US Navy in order to find and retrieve equipment lost at sea and to identify intruders swimming into restricted areas. The dolphins are also used to detect mines that are either buried in the seafloor or floating in the water, tethered to an anchor. In the words of Paul Nachtigall, head of the marine mammal research program at the University of Hawaii in Kane’ohe Bay. “Bottlenose dolphins are better than any machine as far as detecting mines. They can also do it much faster than a machine can.” He further adds to this saying that Dolphins can be especially effective close to shore, where crashing surf and ship traffic generate a lot of noise. Mechanical systems can be overwhelmed by all the competing signals, but not dolphins. It’s because their sonar is so finely tuned, he explains. Dolphins, and relatives like killer whales, send out a series of sounds that bounce off of objects in the surrounding environment. The mammals pick up the return echoes and form an acoustic picture of their environment, an ability known as echolocation.
Experiments Nachtigall conducted in the mid-1990s with a resident bottlenose dolphin named BJ demonstrated this sensitive ability. Nachtigall asked BJ to distinguish between metal cylinders made of either stainless steel, brass, or aluminum. Even though he buried the four inch-long objects under two feet of mud, BJ passed with flying colors. This is till now a topic of study that has fascinated researchers and scientists worldwide.