Speed Reads

the mystery of the killer dolphins

Ukraine claims its military dolphins are so patriotic that they died rather than follow Russian command

Ukraine is alleging that its military dolphins have all died because they went on a hunger strike after their aquarium was seized by Russia during the annexation of Crimea in 2014, The Financial Times' Max Seddon tweets based on a report by Moscow's Gazeta. The report suggests that the dolphins refused to obey their Russian coaches' commands and went on a hunger strike in protest of their new masters, which eventually led to their deaths.

In one comment translated by Seddon, an officer reportedly applauded the dolphins' patriotism, saying that many Ukrainian soldiers "took their oath and loyalty much less seriously than these dolphins."

After the annexation of Crimea, Russia snapped up the military dolphin program, leading to speculation that Moscow could be reviving secret Soviet-era training in which the marine mammals were taught to plant explosive devices on enemy ships and use harpoons to stab swimmers, The Washington Post reports. "Ukraine is demanding the return of the dolphins, who unlike the naval officers serving on the peninsula, were not given the choice of 'defecting' to Russia or traveling to mainland Ukraine to continue serving Kiev," The Guardian reported in 2014.

A separate Russian report published Tuesday has a less exciting version of events — that the noble dolphins did not in fact go on hunger strike but were sold to private companies due to a lack of funds for their program, or died of natural causes.

The United States has the only other military dolphin program in the world, based out of San Diego, where some 75 dolphins were being trained in 2014.