Undercover Critters

After Egypt detained a stork on suspicion of spycraft last month, Mohamed Madi considers the history of animal espionage:

[N]ot all reports of pets on patrol are as far-fetched as they seem. Animals have been serving in the military as early as 1908, when Germans first attached cameras to pigeons to take aerial photographs. Some programs have been more successful than others. The CIA’s attempt to implant listening devices into a cat – dubbed Operation Acoustic Kitty – ended in failure on day one, when the kitty was run over by a car outside the Soviet embassy in Washington DC. The project was estimated to have cost more than $14 million. …

Perhaps the most successful recruits from the animal world have been dolphins. The US and Russia have confirmed the existence of marine mammal training programs, where dolphins and seals are trained to identify underwater mines and disable enemy swimmers. But just like young soldiers, dolphins have hormones and can go AWOL. In March this year, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry had to deny reports that three military dolphins had escaped and were roaming the Black Sea in search of sex.