Unarmed But Dangerous
Sea Lions, Porpoises Deployed to Bahrain to Protect U.S. Military
By John McWethy
S A N D I E G O, Calif., Jan. 30
ó The U.S. military is experimenting with trained sea lions as a way of providing security for the huge American port complex
Sources say the Navy decided to acknowledge the experiment, at least in part, because the sea lions were making so
much noise in their pens at Bahrain harbor, home of the Navy's largest facility in the Persian Gulf.
Sea lions are not native to those waters and typically bark loudly when excited. There was no way their presence, officials decided, could be kept
secret. No final decision has been made on whether the sea lions will stay.
The animals ó along with dolphins and a beluga whale or two ó are trained as part of the Navy's Marine Mammal Program in San Diego. They are trained
to hunt for mines, to locate objects lost in deep water and to provide harbor security.
Intelligence officials have warned repeatedly about the threat of terrorists using divers to blow up ships. That's what both the sea lions and the
dolphins are trained to deal with, among other things.
Working with human handlers, the sea lions are trained to locate unexpected swimming intruders, to snap a locking clamp on an arm or leg, then leave.
The clamp is connected to a rope and signal buoy that humans with guns would then reel up, presumably pulling up a human on the other end. In theory,
the animals would not be hurt. Their contact with a potential terrorist ó who would presumably be surprised ó would last only an instant as they
briefly made contact.
Eric Jensen, a veterinarian with the Navy program said: "When you study the animals and you come to realize what they can do in their own
environment, the aquatic environment, it's no surprise that we have not been able to build a machine that can do what they do."
Sea Lions, Unlike Dolphins, Can Battle the Elements
Why sea lions?
During the Persian Gulf War and several times after, the Navy used specially trained dolphins to pull harbor guard duty. But their handlers discovered
as the weather heated up and the water got warmer in the Gulf, the dolphins became sluggish and far less effective.
Officials say sea lions do not appear to be bothered as much by rising water temperature and they have one other advantage. Unlike a dolphin, a sea
lion could continue chasing an enemy ó if it came to that ó onto dry land.
Now I never been SCUBA divin', but I do snorkel. Reread this part: "Working with human handlers, the sea lions are trained to locate unexpected
swimming intruders, to snap a locking clamp on an arm or leg, then leave."
Why even bother? If you're deep underwater and something that big comes up and starts messing with you, you'll be dead of a heart attack, no clamp
needed! Either that or your butt cheeks would pucker so quick & tight you'll implode!