US Navy Sea Mammal Training

A curious-looking sea lion approached a boat I was sailing the other day. I had a good laugh with the crew on board about how it must represent the latest Naval surveillance technology…”look out, a seagull-drone also is watching”. It turns out the joke was really on us, according to a report this week by CNET.

At Pier 48 in San Francisco, the city’s police and fire departments, along with its Emergency Operations Center, conducted a drill demonstrating the ability of dolphins and California Sea Lions to help protect coastal areas from maritime attacks.

No word on seagulls but they fit nicely into this picture. Could an octopus could be trained? They would be able to operate without a mechanical clasp like the one required for a sea lion:

I have to wonder how mammals are evaluated for this job. It is not very clear from the story.

Using highly trained dolphins and sea lions selected for their quickness, intelligence, detection capability, and mobility, officials demonstrated the unique ability of these animals to identify and neutralize threats in cooperation with human teammates.

Selected? Obviously they do not enlist. Does this rule out monkeys? What about chimpanzees, pigs or birds? Are dogs the only other animal that has been drafted for US military training? How does the military account for the cost and time of training a dolphin or sea lion? An artificial shark robot seems like a more humane approach, maybe more cost-effective, to this kind of underwater explosive detection and removal operation.

Remember Roboshark2? I have not heard anything since the big splash in 2003.

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