Russia intended to train white whales to be guards at their naval bases, with their duties extended to killing intruders, according to TV Zvezda, an outlet owned by the Russian defense ministry. They claim that the whales are also being trained to “assist deep water divers.”
Vladimir Putin has advanced efforts to increase Russia’s presence in the arctic. Re-opening old Soviet military bases in the area, Putin says they have the right to utilize vast energy resources in the polar region. The marine mammal program may be a way to advance the pursuit.
Reportedly, as Russia builds up its Arctic naval strength, they are leaning more towards the use of seals instead of whales, stating the seals are more effective than whales, according to The Siberian Times.
“It was mainly about white whales with highly sensitive sonars,” states the report. “It was planned that white whales could be on duty at the entrances to naval bases. But they turned out to be very delicate – they easily got ill after long swimming periods in cold polar waters.”
Seals, however, outperform whales when it comes to reliable execution of military tasks, according to the report.
“Even after a one year break in training, a seal will keep all oral commands in its memory,” reports Zvezda, which credited Murmansk Sea Biology Research Institute with conducting the study. They used ringed, bearded, grey and Greenland seals and bottle-nosed dolphins in a program financed by the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Zvezda reports, “They can locate mines and lift objects from deep waters. It is enough to show an object to a seal and it will find it at the bottom.”
They also say that a seal can distinguish “his” diver from another, maintain contact with that diver, and bring up a tool or carry something away. Given a special signal, the animals can even “block or kill (an) underwater saboteur.”
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