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Robots to Replace Navy Dolphins in Hunt for Underwater Mines

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Since the 1950’s the Navy has been using marine animals like bottle-nosed dolphins and sea lions in their efforts to keep the ports safe. The dolphins are taught to locate underwater mines so humans can go and retrieve them.

But, with the advancement of technology, it seems that dolphins might be replaced by robots for their mine hunting duties in the next five years. Animal activists shouldn’t rejoice just yet. One would think that these animals would be retired after their service to the country, but the Navy plans to keep them working.

Mike Rothe, head of the biosciences division at the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific in San Diego, said, “About a quarter of (the Navy dolphins) would be affected. But it’s not like they are going to go jobless. We have other assignments.”

Other assignments include finding and bringing back objects from deep water as well as locating enemy swimmers. Sea lions perform a sort of citizens arrest. Once they find a swimmer who doesn’t belong, the sea lion attaches a claw-like apparatus. The North County Times described it as a sort of boot one might put on the wheel of a car to keep the swimmer stationary.

The government does take responsibility for these animals even when their duties are complete, but heading to a marine sanctuary isn’t exactly at the top of the list. The government has been known to loan out dolphins to Sea World. Not exactly a great “thank you” considering Sea World’s track record with animal welfare.

As some small consolation, at least the government no longer captures wild dolphins for the program. They have a breeding program, not that those dolphins don’t deserve to live their lives free from government control. Sadly, for sea lions, breeding isn’t an option. Most are orphans who were stranded when they were youngsters.

The best we can say from this news, is at least the dangerous duties will be lessened for these creatures. Perhaps one of the animal organizations out there is also trying to get them a better retirement plan. Sea World is hardly relaxing through their golden years…

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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