It’s one of the most prestigious, hard-earned positions in the U.S. military: a post as a Navy Seal. But not everyone bearing that title has had to master the notoriously tough program — after all, it must be hard to get through boot camp with fins instead of feet.
They’re the Navy’s other ‘Seals’ – well, technically, sea lions. And the animals are no less dedicated to fighting terrorism than their human counterparts, diving underwater to clear mines or foil intruder divers.
In fact, militarized sea mammals such as sea lions and dolphins are so good at what they do that the Russian military is concerned about catching up to the U.S. in this area.
“We have trained sea lions to attach a leg cuff, just like hand cuffs, but fitted on a diver's thigh,” Tom LaPuzza of the Biosciences Division of SSC Pacific told The Daily Mail.
“The device works in the same way as handcuffs. Once they are on, they cannot come off. A line is attached to the cuffs; the other end of the line is held by security forces on a nearby boat. The human forces can then reel in the intruder and take him or her aboard for questioning.”
Sea lions’ directional hearing, underwater low-light vision, maneuverability and speed make them ideal for the work, according to Ann Dakis of SSC Pacific.
The U.S. Navy has 28 California sea lions, 80 Atlantic and Pacific bottlenose dolphins and one Beluga whale in service in the Navy's Marine Mammal Program.