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Can Animals Be Used as Spies?

Pigeons, cat, bats, and insects are among the many animals that have been utilized -- at least in theory-- for surveillance purposes. Recently, a beluga whale dubbed "Hvaldimir" was accused of being a Russian spy, capturing the world's attention. The whale was discovered by fishermen in northern Norwegian waters in April 2019, wearing a harness (which might have been designed to hold a camera) with a label reading, "Equipment St. Petersburg." Some Norwegian officials have speculated that the beluga whale was working for the Russian Navy due to the proximity of the base at Murmansk, the whale's strange harness, and its apparent familiarity with people. Furthermore, although Russia has firmly denied using animals for espionage, the nation is known to have used whales, dolphins, and other marine creatures to scan underwater for mines and other equipment during the Cold War. Although the whale's former life remains a mystery, Hvaldimir has stuck around in Norway's Hammerfest harbor. The whale appears to have been in captivity for so long that it doesn't know how to fend for itself. Thus, spy or not, the beluga swims up every day to get its daily quota of fish from a helpful team of humans from the Norwegian Orca Survey.

All about belugas:

  • Beluga whales can swim backward and dive to depths of .5 miles (805 meters) without coming up for air for 25 minutes.
  • Belugas rely on their white skin for camouflage, but they are born gray-brown and don't become white until they are about 13 years old.
  • Belugas are called the "canaries of the sea" because they make high-pitched noises, including clicking and whistling.

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