Russian trainer sells "mercenary" dolphins to Iran

The marine mammals were trained to kill.

Published March 24, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

It sounds like the plot from a stupid B-movie, but it's true: A marine mammal trainer and former Soviet militiaman just sold four "killer" dolphins and a white beluga whale to Iran.

According to a BBC report, the dolphins and whale were trained by the Soviet navy to attack "enemy frogmen with harpoons attached to their backs" and carry out "kamikaze strikes" against enemy ships. The animals learned to distinguish between Soviet and foreign submarines by the sounds of their propellers and were taught to carry mines to the hulls of enemy vessels to blow them (and themselves) up.

When funding for the project was cut off, the highly trained creatures wound up in a tourist "dolphinarium" in Sevastopol, located on the Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea. Their military trainer, Boris Zhurid, continued to train them at the dolphinarium, but decided to sell the mammals when the aquatic sideshow began to lose money. He told the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that there was no longer enough food and medicine for the animals at the dolphinarium. "If I were a sadist," he said, "then I could have remained in Sevastopol."

In addition to the dolphins and whale, Zhurid sold sea lions, seals, walruses and three cormorants to Iran -- 27 animals altogether. The creatures were flown by Russian transport aircraft from Sevastopol to the Persian Gulf, where their fates remain unknown.

By J.A. Getzlaff

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