Dolphins bring basketballs to their trainers at Laohutan Scenic Park in Dalian, Liaoning province. (File photo/CNS)
The town of Taiji in Japan's Wakayama prefecture has reportedly exported dolphins to the Russian and Ukrainian militaries for use on missions, according to Japanese weekly Shukan Post's Sept. 5 issue. This was followed up by a report from the website of China's nationalistic Global Times, stating that the town had also exported dolphins to China, where aquariums are gaining popularity.
The town captures dozens of dolphins every year and while some of them are supplied to aquariums, others are exported to the Ukrainian and Russian navies' dolphin forces. The US Navy has also imported the marine animals from the Japanese town in the past.
Over the past five years, Taiji exported 70 to 80 dolphins to other countries, with 30 to 50 of them shipped to China, where the number of aquariums increased significantly. Russia imported 15 of them. Only three to four of the 20 dolphins Ukraine imported last year ended up in aquariums while the remainder have reportedly been put to use by the military.
Since dolphins can be trained to detect torpedoes, dive to 300 meters beneath the water's surface, spot frogmen and scout ports, the US and the Soviet Union began studying the military applications of dolphins in the 1970s. The US Navy reportedly used dolphins to guard submarines, clear torpedoes and scout during the 1991 Gulf War. The Global Times report said the US Navy has attempted to install poisonous arrows and bombs on dolphins and train them to attack frogmen.
The report also said most of the dolphins kept and trained at the former Ukrainian base in Sevastopol in Crimea–which was annexed by Russia earlier this year–were captured in and exported from Taiji, where 1,524 of the marine animals were netted in 2012. Russia caught 13 dolphins in 2012, while Ukraine didn't catch any in the same year. The report said that the Ukrainian Navy imported the dolphins from Taiji in 2013 after reopening its training program for a special dolphin force in autumn 2012. Since the Sevastopol base was annexed by Russia, Ukraine has been demanding the return of its dolphins but Russia has reportedly been developing new technology to search for sunken object and detect divers with the Ukrainian dolphins, according to the Guardian.