The Dark Side of the Dolphin

by Borislav Bankov

You have probably heard once or twice that dolphins are very smart (some say even as smart as us humans). Doubt it? I believe after reading the next lines you will be pretty sure that these playful creatures have got some brains indeed.

U.S. Navy dolphin, named KDog, performing mine clearance in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War.
U.S. Navy dolphin, named KDog, performing mine clearance in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War.

You may know that there are dolphinariums around the globe: special places where the alleged geniuses of the sea perform tricks such as jumping over a ramp, chasing a football or simply ‘smiling’ to the astonished crowd. Children in particular love these kinds of shows. I myself can testify since there is a dolphinarium just across the street in my hometown Varna, Bulgaria, and I still like going for a spectacle every year. However, after recently coming across an article, I may reconsider the idea of a friendly relationship with the dolphins.

It turns out that the marine mammals have brought tricks to the next level thus creating the concept of a ‘military dolphin’. Now I am well aware that this sounds peculiar at first but it appears that the concept is far from new. In the 1960s the U.S. Navy endorsed a special unit and research program for testing different mammals for military purposes. Classified information reveals that “more than 19 species were tested, including some sharks and birds.” The bottlenose dolphin apparently crashed the competition followed by the California sea lion. The winner’s most valuable advantage was its extremely evolved biosonar – its natural antenna which helps it detect underwater mines. Ever since, dolphins have been trained to locate mines and combatants and, as disturbing as it sounds, destroy enemy vessels by ‘kamikaze’ techniques.

Here it gets even more remarkable. In 2005, hurricane Katrina rampaged most of eastern North America, including the Gulf of Mexico. 705 people were reported missing. However, they were not the only ones. 36 fully-armed dolphins supposedly disappeared as well. Even more extraordinary, several experts at the time exposed that the runaways could be carrying highly unpleasant ‘toxic dart’ guns, which the ‘killer’ dolphins use to fire at terrorist-divers. Concerns were voiced that the deadly dolphins were known to become overenthusiastic, perhaps simply mistaking windsurfers for spies or terrorists. Fortunately, at least publically, no tragic incidents were reported. Maybe the animals just wanted to escape from a stressful job.

However, perhaps the war-heroes came back to claim their pensions since in 2007, 14 million U.S. dollars were officially spent on mammal military-training exercises. Therefore, the special program has been very formally incorporated in military spending and methods. And of course has received public attention regarding animal protection and ethics. Still, the unusual technique continues and could expand. So beware! Today’s pet cat of yours could easily become tomorrow’s warlord. It’s a wild world!


Picture courtesy of

Borislav Bankov
Borislav Bankov

3 thoughts on “The Dark Side of the Dolphin”

  1. Buddy, sorry to say that, but it is ridiculous to reconsider the friendly behaviour of these nice creatures, just because we, the humans, decided to train them as war machines. 🙂

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