Spys come in all shapes and sizes (and not just unsuspecting teenagers – Sam Trowel!) Here’s an amusing look at some of the brave animals that have been used in the name of espionage.
The training of animals to be used in military intelligence dates as far back as ancient Greece. This continues in modern day espionage with non-humans being at the centre of countless military projects, and even being used as props to complete disguises. Who would believe that the blind man, with the guide dog, walking up the road is the CIA’s best international spy? Some other ways in which animals have been involved in espionage are:
- Flying Felons
Many of the people that trained animals to perform in the circus, during the cold war, were employed by the CIA to train birds and other animals to spy for America. These included ravens that were used to plant listening devices on ledges and pigeons trained as lookouts to warn of ambushes. During WWI one of these brown birds even won a medal for saving US lives during the fighting. By the time WWII started, however, many countries began training falcons to get rid of the pigeons near battle fields…just in case.
Other birds have been unfairly accused of being spies, just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In 2016 a vulture was arrested in Lebanon because of the tracker on its tail. It was believed that the bird was a trained Israeli spy but it was proven to be a part of a larger project being conducted by the Tel Aviv University. The bird was released and happily returned to Israel with all its feathers still intact.
- Courageous Cats
A project called ‘Acoustic Kitty’ was undertaken by the CIA during the 1960s to use cats as listening devices. They surgically inserted microphones into the animals’ stomachs and their tails were meant to be used as antennas. The project was abandoned; however, as the first cat sent on a mission got run over by a car before getting close enough to be able to hear the conversation that it was to eavesdrop upon.
- Spying Squirrels
In 2007, it was reported that 14 squirrels that been arrested in Iran as they were believed to be participants in a spying ring. Foreign Intelligence services accused the creatures of being fitted with eavesdropping equipment, but later claimed that the story ‘was just nuts.’
- Detecting Dolphins
The Marine Mammal Program that is being conducted by the US navy combines these animals’ intelligence with their ability to hear and see underwater, in order to train them to sweep for mines, carry cameras and even put cuffs on suspects. There are many animal rights activists who are petitioning for their release, due to the fact that they are being forced to become involved in human warfare.
- Insertions in Insects
Sometimes the most dangerous creatures are the smallest, and several insects have naturally been assigned this title. Micro and nano technology has made it possible for insects to be fitted with batteries, electrodes and video cameras. It is also rumoured that there are US military projects which are experimenting with inserting brain probes into moths and beetles during the pupa stage, in the belief that they will grow with the device within them.