Thursday 8 December 2016

Some 31 years on, Fungi is still a firm favourite with tourists

Published 23/08/2015 | 02:30

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As he settles into comfortable old age, Fungi still has the power to charm, attracting 90,000 visitors a year who are desperate to see Dingle's friendly dolphin.

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For a bottle-nosed dolphin, Fungi is something of an old fellow.

It's 31 years since he first arrived in Dingle harbour at a time when the country was agog at the kidnap of Shergar and Ireland's first motorway - the five-mile Naas bypass had just been opened with some fanfare.

Yet Fungi remains sprightly, as these remarkable photographs show.

They were taken by Jeanine Massett and Rudi Schamhart of Fungi Forever, who captured Dingle's favourite resident as he played with young sea kayakers going through their paces with Noel O'Leary of Irish Adventures.

Fungi has taken a liking to kayakers as they paddle along the coastline, especially in the evenings when he appears to be at his most playful.

However, he has become more reserved over the years, as befitting his seniority.

As a young dolphin, he loved nothing more than using his rostrum (beak) to spin sea canoes around. But he still loves to put on a show.

No-one knows Fungi's exact age, but he is well over 30.

In the wild, some experts say the average lifespan of a bottle-nosed dolphin in the open ocean may be about 20 years, although in captivity they can live longer than four decades.

And, of course, there has always been speculation about where he came from.

Some local experts suggest that he may have escaped or been released from a dolphinarium. That would explain his solitary existence over the years and his liking for human interaction.

Meanwhile, there has been a rare sighting of the white beluga whale off Dunseverick on the Antrim coast, which was photographed and videoed by enthusiast Gordon Watson.

It has excited cetacean experts because it's only the third sighting of this exotic snow white mammal, which is generally found in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature placed the beluga on its red list in 2008 as being "near threatened"

The All Island whale watch takes place today. Members of the public are invited to join the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) on one of 20 land-based whale watches being held at headlands around the Irish coast between 2pm and 5pm.

Whale Watch Day, which is free of charge, helps raise awareness of the 24 species of cetaceans (porpoises, dolphins and whales) that have been recorded in Irish waters.

It also gives IWDG researchers a unique snapshot of whale and dolphin activity around the entire Irish coast.

All watches are land-based and will be led by experienced IWDG personnel, who will show you how to observe and identify some of the more commonly observed cetacean species seen in Irish waters.

You should bring binoculars or a spotting scope and dress appropriately for outdoor conditions.

There are no boat trips involved - and there are, of course, no guarantees that you will actually see whales or dolphins during your particular event.

See iwdg.ie for locations.

Sunday Independent

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