Almost 20 years ago, a group of Russian-trained attack dolphins were sold to Iran. Their fate today remains unknown
Cmdr. (res.) Eyal Pinko | 20/01/2020 israelidefense.co.il
Dolphins. Archive photo: Bigstock
In the year 2000, Iran bought a group of killer dolphins who were originally trained for the Russian navy. Twenty years later, no one knows what happened to these aquatic mammals. Did the Iranians manage to keep the dolphins alive and healthy? If so, will they be used to harm US naval vessels if tensions in the Persian Gulf keep escalating?
The Iranians didn’t buy the dolphins directly, but from a Russian civilian names Boris Zhurid. Zhurid is considered a master at training dolphins to dive down and sabotage submarines. Zhurid could even train them to tell the difference between American and non-American submarines.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the dolphins Zhurid trained were moved to Ukraine and used in shows to entertain crowds, and Zhurid went with them. But around the year 2000, Zhurid went bankrupt, and could no longer afford to feed and care for his water-dwelling trainees. The dolphins were sold to Iran in March 2000, along with a few seals and one white whale. Zhurid was able to go with them, and was given resources to care for the creatures, train them and study them.
The Russians eventually rediscovered the effectiveness of dolphins as attack animals, and in 2014 Russia’s dolphin force was re-established. It was introduced to the media in 2016. There are estimates that say they Russian navy even trained white whales to collect intelligence, discover mines, and attack American submarines.
The usr of dolphins as a deadly weapon against naval vessels is generally thought to be a US innovation. It has been reported that the US Navy currently has about 30 dolphins and 30 seals (the animals, not the SEAL commando soldiers) trained, at its base in San Diego, California. They’re thought to be used mostly for the detection of naval mines and submarines. They may also be able to attack naval vessels and transfer supplies to submarines.
The US Navy is known to have used dolphins in operation during the Vietnam and the Iran-Iraq wars. An Iranian use of dolphins would fit with the dictatorship’s asymmetrical warfare strategy, and may be a way Iran could catch the US off guard.
Israel should examine the possibility that aquatic animals could be used against its ships and submarines. The main threat to worry about in this regard is the naval arm of Hezbollah, which takes after the Iranian revolutionary guard as far as combat methods and resources are concerned.