Friday, March 28, 2003

Yes! My man in the field Matt has dug me up a piece with some background on the war dolphins: "Dolphins go to front lines in Iraq war."

"For decades, dolphins as well as sea lions and even beluga whales have been trained to perform a variety of military tasks. In the 1970s, dolphins were used as marine watchdogs for ships off the coast of Vietnam. In 1987, dolphins played a role in underwater surveillance as well as mine detection for U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf region during the latter days of the Iran-Iraq war."

The sea lions are part of the coalition of the willing: They've been "deployed around coalition ships in Bahrain for 'force protection,' Frey [Lt. j.g. Josh Frey, spokesman for the Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain] said.

“ 'What they are trained to do is detect and locate threat swimmers or divers who might be trying to cause harm to a coalition vessel, port or harbor,' he said. 'They would do this by attaching a restraining device to the swimmer or diver, and a line floats to the surface that marks their location, so they can be immediately apprehended by human security force personnel and questioned.' ”

"If the intruders happen to climb onto the shore, the trained sea lions could run after them as fast as a human could."

Don't think that animal-rights advocates aren't saying something about it: "Animal lovers up in arms over US use of dolphin deminers in Iraq."

" 'We are strongly opposed to keeping these mammals in captivity, and we're not happy with this exploitation,' Cathy Williamson of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, a British-based agency, told AFP.

" 'The animals could get hurt, and that's not justified,' Williamson said.

"Stephanie Boyles, a wildlife biologist at the US campaign group PETA (People for the Ethical Treaty of Animals), slammed the US military for 'absolutely' exploiting animals.

" 'It is very cruel to put an animal in harm's way,' she told AFP. 'But our concern isn't just for the animals, it's also for the troops.'

" 'These animals are being taught basically to do tricks and animals, especially animals as intelligent as sealions and dolphins, have minds of their own, and the chance of their failing to fulfill a mission when life and death are at stake is quite possible,' Boyles said."

The AFP story also gives more background on the military use of dolphins: "The programme was launched in 1960 when US researchers began studying dolphins to get clues as to how to design new streamline torpedoes to strike Soviet submarines at the height of the Cold War."

It continues: "The animals are acquired from sea parks and are born in captivity, their trainers told AFP earlier this month. The programme has funding of between 10 and 20 million dollars a year (9.39-18.78 million euros).

"The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) said it could not comment on the use of dolphins in demining.

" 'We work on conservation issues. These are dolphins that have been bred in captivity, so it does not come within our remit,' a spokesman said at the agency's headquarters in Britain said."

I'd just like to point out a couple of mistakes in the AFP's piece, by the way. PETA, of course, is not People for the Ethical *Treaty* of Animals, but People for the Ethical *Treatment* of Animals. The WWF is now officially known solely by its acronym. In any case, though, its former name was the World Wildlife Fund, not the Worldwide Fund for Nature. After poking around online a little, though, I think it may be possible that Worldwide Fund for Nature is the name the organization goes by outside of the States. (See, for instance, this Australian site.)

"British Staff Sgt. Steve Hoyle of the 3 Regiment Army Air Corps (AAC), 16 Air Assault Brigade, takes aim alongside a pigeon nicknamed 'Harry', in southern Iraq, Wednesday, March 26, 2003. The pigeon was accidentaly shipped to Iraq in a consignment of ration packs, and was liberated by the Quartermasters of 3 reg AAC when they opened their latest supplies."