Ukraine claims dolphin army captured by Russia went on hunger strike
Dolphins Ukraine claims dolphin army captured by Russia went on hunger strike
Russia captured the dolphins in 2014 and says the trained mammals refused both to interact with their coaches, and to eat
Ukraine is home to some of the more adventurous military blue-sky thinking, mostly hangovers from the Soviet era. As well as a 160-metre high, 500-metre long radar that was supposed to be able to warn of nuclear attack, it also has a secret programme that trains sea mammals to carry out military tasks. Ukraine has a dolphin army at the Crimean military dolphin centre, trained and ready for deployment.
Or at least it did, but after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, the dolphins were captured. Ukraine demanded their return, but Russian forces refused. Some believed the Russians were planning to retrain the dolphins as Russian soldiers, with a source telling Russian agency RIA Novosti that engineers were âdeveloping new aquarium technologies for new programmes to more efficiently use dolphins underwaterâ.Orcas can imitate human speech, research reveals Read more
Four years later and it seems little has come of these supposed Russian plans and most of the dolphins have died. But this week Boris Babin, the Ukrainian governmentâs representative in Crimea, claimed that they did so defending their country. He said that the dolphins died âpatrioticallyâ, refusing to follow orders or eat food provided by the âRussian invadersâ and that the hunger strike led to their eventual death.
He told the Ukranian Obozrevatel newspaper that the dolphins were more honourable than some human soldiers: âThe trained animals refused not only to interact with the new Russian coaches, but refused food and died some time later. Many Ukrainian soldiers took their oath and loyalty much less seriously than these dolphins.â
Others have since denied the claims and blamed Ukraine for their poor treatment of the dolphins. On the Russian-owned radio station Sputnik, Ukrainian politician Vladimir Oleinik claimed that politicians in Kiev are always looking to blame âthe hand of Moscowâ when sober-minded people can see this is just propaganda and rumours, and that the dolphins were not especially looked after under any regime.
Russian Duma deputy Dmitry Belik has since claimed, rather less excitingly, that all the combat dolphins that served in the naval forces of Ukraine were sold to commercial entities or died of natural causes before 2014. He said there âis no question of any Ukrainian patriotismâ because Ukraine had already demilitarised the dolphins, and for some time they had only engaged in commercial activities.
Dolphins have been observed displaying similar âloyalâ characteristics to dogs, swimming up enthusiastically to people that they have met before. Occasionally captive dolphins have been known to refuse food when a tank companion dies and there have also been claims that dolphins have stopped themselves breathing after being separated from humans they had formed a bond with. So perhaps the Ukrainian claims arenât as far-fetched as they sound.
There is plenty of disinformation floating around, and it is difficult to independently verify what really went on a t a secret dolphin training facility in Crimea. We do know that in 2016, Russians put out a public tender to purchase five dolphins â" and eventually bought them from Moscowâs Utrish Dolphinarium â" although they never explained why. Perhaps they thought they could persuade their existing pod of Ukrainian dolphins to switch sides.Topics
- Marine life
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