5 Strange Cases of Accused Animal Spies



In April, Norwegian researchers apprehended a beluga whale that had been harassing local fishermen. According to Insider, experts at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research have come to the conclusion that the whale is likely a tool of the Russian military. The article reports, “[the whale] “had an attachment that could fit a GoPro camera and was likely used to hold surveillance equipment like cameras or other marine sensors.”

If this aquatic mammal is indeed an asset for the Russian government, it wouldn’t be the first animal trained for or accused of espionage. Here is a list of the five strangest cases of animals accused of being spies.

1. The Bionic Shark


Image Source: Memory Hole

In 2006, the BBC reported on a supposed plan by US researchers to use sharks to track underwater vessels by implanting microchips in their brains. According to the article, the program, which was funded by the Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), intended “to build on latest developments in brain implant technology which has already seen scientists controlling the movements of fish, rats and monkeys.”

The chip would essentially allow military personnel to “steer” the sharks from remote locations, using the animal’s natural stealth and heightened unwater senses to keep tabs on underwater vessels. As of today, it is unclear what results the research yielded.

Accused Animal Spies

2. Eye in the Sky

Image Source: YouTube
Pigeons have a long and illustrious history in modern warfare. They were famously used to pass messages between battalions in World War I, but apparently, their military service does not end there.

According to the Smithsonian, B.F Skinner, a forefather of modern behavioral science, wanted to fit the birds with homing devices that would allow them to steer missiles toward their targets. The idea ultimately proved fruitless.

However, the same article reports that the birds were successfully used by the US military to thwart enemy ambushes in the 60s and 70s. The pigeons were guided by laser pointers and trained to drop recording devices if they saw enemy troops. The program successfully saved US troops from 45 potential ambushes.
Accused Animal Spies

3. The Cat that Came in from the Cold
Image Source: YouTube
The CIA got up to a lot of strange business in the 1960s. One of the strangest was an attempt by the organization to surgically alter household cats so that they could pass along audio recordings taken from Soviet embassies. The Smithsonian reports that “the team turned the cat into a transmitter—with…a wire running from the cat’s inner ear to a battery and instrument cluster implanted in its rib cage.”

The program was eventually scrapped because researchers couldn’t control the cat’s movements. It tended to simply wander off for its own mysterious reasons. How did they not see that coming? It was a cat. That is kind of what they do.
Accused Animal Spies

4. Squirreling Away More Than a Few Nuts
Squirreling Away More Than a Few Nuts
Image Source: YouTube
In 2007, Iranian officials rounded up more than a dozen squirrels around a nuclear enrichment plant and accused them of spying for the Israeli government.  According to the state-sponsored Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), “The squirrels were carrying spy gear of foreign agencies, and were stopped before they could act, thanks to the alertness of our intelligence services.”

The squirrels could not be reached for comment to explain their actions. However, National Public Radio (NPR) did interview wildlife professor John Koprowski on the air at the time. Koprowski said that it was unlikely that a squirrel could be trained to carry out complex intelligence gathering techniques — unlikely, but not impossible.
Accused Animal Spies

5. They Call Him the Chameleon
Image Source: YouTube
Apparently, there is a long history of accusations lodged against Israel using animal related espionage. In fact, there is a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to documenting them. One of the most recent involves uranium sniffing chameleons.

According to The Times of Israel, Hassan Firuzabadi, a senior military adviser to Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that the West had smuggled chameleons into Iran with the intent of monitoring the country’s nuclear program. He said they could detect uranium mines.

“We found out that their skin attracts atomic waves and that they were nuclear spies who wanted to find out where inside the Islamic Republic of Iran we have uranium mines and where we are engaged in atomic activities,” Firuzabadi reportedly said at a 2018 press conference.

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