The Times of Israel reports that Hamas has announced the detection and detention of a dolphin engaged in spying. The dolphin was apprehended after it was observed behaving suspiciously in an undisclosed location in the Mediterranean Sea. A coastal enclave controlled by Hamas made the capture. They claim that the dolphin was equipped with spy video and “other espionage tools.” Al Quds publication also reported that the dolphin was armed with a device for firing arrows. Reports on Army Radio, the original source, were careful to disambiguate the dolphin from Israel’s Dolphin Class submarine. Presumably, they were also careful to keep a straight face.
Joking aside, there are many precedents for the use of various animals, especially dolphins, for military purposes and as spies. The U.S. Navy has notoriously used real and simulated tuna, dolphins, and seals for bomb detection, the placement of limpet mines, ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance), elint (electronic intelligence), and sigint (signals intelligence). There is a long history of other animals trained in warfare and surveillance, including Russian “suicide bomber” dogs intended to destroy tanks, and, in World War II, there was a U.S. program to surgically implant incendiary devices in bats that were to be released over Japan. Both of these programs were abortive, and the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program was beset with difficulties.
This is not to say that such programs have never been successful. The actual existence of spy dolphins and similar, combined with the tense environment of the Middle East, make it far from unusual that Hamas would arrest a suspicious dolphin. Dolphins, seals, vultures, eagles, and squirrels have all been “arrested” in the past by zealously watchful security forces. Egyptian authorities have reported the presence of “Israeli sharks” in their coastal waters. The Islamic Republic of Iran famously arrested 14 squirrels for espionage and, more worryingly, they also detained two pigeons in the process of conducting surveillance near one of their nuclear facilities. In a related incident, Turkish authorities detained some pigeons equipped with tracking devices that were part of an Israeli university study.
In light of this, we can see that the arrest of various other birds and mammals suspected of espionage is a reasonably frequent occurrence. This would appear to be the first apprehension of a dolphin, however, which may strike some readers as surprising. The dolphin, however, was described by Army Radio as one of the world’s most intelligent animals, which might account for their efficiency in counter-surveillance techniques up to now.
[Picture via Getty Images]