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Dolphins & Sea Lions


FGM Lieutenant General
Oct 11, 2010
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Castelar, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina.
Bottlenose dolphins have served alongside sea lions in helping the U.S. Navy patrol the seas since the 1960s. The brethren of Flipper use their sophisticated biological sonar to search for mines based on the concept of echolocation. A dolphin will send out a series of clicks that bounce off objects and return to the dolphin. That allows the marine mammal to get a mental image of the object, and it can then report to its human handler using certain yes or no responses. The handler can also follow up on a yes response by sending the dolphin to mark the object’s location with a weighted buoy line. Those mine-marking abilities came in handy during both the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War, with Navy dolphins helping to clear the port of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq during the latter. Dolphins can also tag enemy swimmers, but the U.S. Navy denies rumors about training dolphins to use weapons against humans.-


The US Navy started its work with dolphins in the late 1950's when research was geared towards analysing the dolphins hydrodynamics and sonar. The dolphins were poked, prodded and put through rigorous testing to discover how they could swim at high speeds for long periods of time. The Navy hoped it could learn from the dolphins to improve its own vessels. The Navy also carried out a wide variety of experiments to determine whether dolphins could be trained to locate and retrieve "lost" objects from the seabed using its sonar. They wanted to use dolphins to replace expensive electronic equipment and human divers.

In the early 1960's, the work of John C. Lilly and other scientists investigating dolphin communication and intelligence alerted the navy that dolphins possessed intelligence second only to man's and they had the ability to learn tasks quickly and efficiently. The Navy then started "secret" dolphin research but early reports of these plans quickly leaked out and people were appalled by the suggestion that cetaceans could be exploited in such a way. However the navy went on with the program and ahead with training.

From 1960 to 1989, the US Navy is known to have employed 240 dolphins. They include atlantic bottlenose dolphins, pacific white-sided dolphins, belugas, killer whales, pilot whales, false killer whales and even sea lions. The first and most famous navy dolphim was Notty, a pacific white-sided dolphin that was enlisted by an aquarium in Los Angeles, California. She was in to small of a tank for in-depth experiments to take place so they moved her to the Office of Naval Research at Point Mugu, CA. The navy collected other dolphins and subjected them to a battery of rigorous tests in order to learn more about their sensory systems, sonar and aquatic ergonomics.-

The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) is a program administered by the U.S. Navy which studies the military use of marine mammals - principally Bottlenose Dolphins and California Sea Lions - and trains animals to perform tasks such as ship and harbor protection, mine detection and clearance, and equipment recovery. The program is based in San Diego, California, where animals are housed and trained on an ongoing basis. NMMP animal teams have been deployed for use in combat zones, such as during the Vietnam War and the Iraq War.-

The program has been dogged by controversy over the treatment of the animals and speculation as to the nature of its mission and training. This has been due at least in part to the secrecy of the program, which was de-classified in the early 1990s. Since the program’s inception, there have been ongoing animal welfare concerns, with many opposing the use of marine mammals in military applications, even in essentially non-combatant roles such as mine detection. The Navy cites external oversight, including ongoing monitoring, in defense of its animal care standards.-

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