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  Navy dolphins prepare for first mission
Updated 25 March 2003, 20.17
Bottle-nose dolphin
A team of specially trained dolphins are getting ready for their first important war missions in the port of Umm Qasr in Iraq.

The bottle-nosed Atlantic dolphins - Makai and Tacoma - have been taught by the US Navy to help divers hunt down Iraqi mines in the waters.

The navy is training more than 70 dolphins and 20 sea lions to do the job.

Their mission is very important because the mines planted by Iraqi troops must be moved to allow ships carrying vital aid through to Iraq.

Clever sonar

Fact File
War animals
Millions helped soldiers in wars
Died of injury, starvation, thirst, exhaustion and disease
8m horses, mules and donkeys died in WWI
More than 100,000 pigeons served in WWI - 200,000 in WWII
Elephants, camels, cats, canaries and glow worms served
Dolphins used to protect warships by butting enemy divers in 1960s

The mammals find mines using their natural sonar.

But the clever dolphins are trained to stay away from them when they see one.

Once they spot a mine, they are taught to drop a floating marker which tells divers where the explosives are.

This means they stay out of danger too.

According to the US navy, they are keen and work very hard.

Anger

But animals rights campaigners are angry the animals are being used like this.

They feel they are being exploited, are just being taught tricks and could get hurt.

Although the US navy say the only real danger they face comes from other dolphins who might not like new faces in their waters.

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ClubSwimming with Rascal the dolphin

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Past StoriesBORDER=0
Huge sandstorms make it difficult for troops
Action needed to stop dolphin deaths
Animals of war honoured by memorial
11 September dogs honoured with sculptures

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Really Wild Show: Dolphins

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