The killer Ukrainian dolphin story has now been declared a hoax by the media (e.g.,Salon, MSN, Outside). An initial news report from the Russian news agency RIA Novosti suggested that Ukrainian military dolphins, trained to attack enemy swimmers, swam away from their handlers and were roaming the Black Sea. This became an instant internet sensation, but was quickly followed by reports that the source of the information provided to RIA Novosti was a fake document forged by a disgruntled ex-employee and/or museum director. The Ukrainian military has denied the reports from the get-go.
The thing is, I have yet to see a news report that has been able to confirm that the source of the information suggesting that this whole incident is a hoax is any more credible than the source suggesting that the dolphins did in fact escape. Both sources are pretty darn sketchy. As many have pointed out, the idea that the Ukrainian military could have revived the ex-Soviet military dolphin program and is training their dolphins in anti-personnel tactics is entirely plausible, if totally unconfirmed. And captive dolphins do sometimes wander off. So the basis for the story is well within the realm of possibility.
What surprises me is that so many news outlets have been keen to report on this story based on nothing other than that single RIA Novosti news item and/or a handful of weird websites suggesting the story is a hoax. Surely what we really need is an intrepid journalist to make their way to Sevastapol, interview some of the people involved in this story, and perhaps count the number of dolphins with knives strapped to their heads to see if any are in fact missing? Or, to determine if dolphins have knives strapped to their heads.
Until such time as this happens, maybe we should take headlines like these with a grain of salt: ‘HEAVILY ARMED SEX CRAZED DOLPHINS on RAMPAGE in Black Sea,” or “Killer Dolphin Escape to Black Sea Story a Hoax, Reports Say.” Let’s see what the third act brings us, shall we?
As of this morning (March 15th) RIA Novosti is now reporting that there are no killer dolphins on the loose. Indeed the documents initially provided to the media were a fake, and all the dolphins (which are probably not even being trained for military purposes in the first place) are safe and sound at the Ukrainian State Oceanarium. Third act now resolved. Roll credits.