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Fungie fears eased as Kerry icon spotted by Dingle fisherman


Getting on a bit: Fungi is believed to be the oldest solitary dolphin in the world

Getting on a bit: Fungi is believed to be the oldest solitary dolphin in the world PHOTO: SEAN MANION

Getting on a bit: Fungi is believed to be the oldest solitary dolphin in the world PHOTO: SEAN MANION

FEARS of Fungie's demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated.

The beloved Kerry dolphin was spotted by a fisherman on Thursday - hours after major concerns had been raised over his welfare.

So great were the fears for the dolphin that a number of boats conducted searches of Dingle harbour and coastal waters around the peninsula.

The Fungie Forever social media page, which is dedicated to the famous Dingle dolphin, first revealed the concerns for his welfare and the fact that marine enthusiasts and Dingle boatmen had been searching for the mammal without success since Wednesday.

Now, however, one fisherman said he is "one thousand per cent certain" he spotted Fungie in Dingle Bay on Thursday as he headed out to fish.

Paul Hand said he had no doubt it was Fungie - and that the dolphin appeared perfectly normal.

Mr Hand told RTÉ: “I am one thousand percent certain it was Fungie. I've been looking at him for the last 40 years. It was definitely him. He swam alongside my boat for a spell as I headed out into the bay".

The fisherman told RTÉ he believes an increase in the amount of dolphins in Dingle Bay was to blame for Fungie leaving his haunt of the harbour for a day or so.

“There's a share of other bottlenose dolphins out in the bay at the moment because the place is full of sprat. I saw at least five or six of them out there yesterday.

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"There's a lot of feeding going on and what's happening is Fungie's is following the fishing boats out into the bay and is deciding to stay feeding with the other dolphins.

“He is enjoying the company," Mr Hand said.

Now, all boats - ranging from sightseeing craft to fishermen - have been asked to keep a weather eye out for Fungie and, if possible, to photograph him.

Also known as the Dingle Dolphin, Fungie is a male Common Bottlenose Dolphin. First spotted off Dingle in the summer of 1983, Fungie became a tourist sensation with his antics near leisure craft and his clear love of being watched.

Marine biologists were astounded at the manner in which the dolphin appeared to actively seek out human contact.

The lone male dolphin tends to prefer to operate on his own - but loves to interact with boats, fishermen and sightseers.

The dolphin routinely interacts with people on boats as well as swimmers, surfers and kayakers.

Fungie's age is unknown but males generally live for between eight and 17 years. However, in exceptional circumstances, dolphins have been known to live for almost 70 years.

Fungie has also contributed to marine science - with his taste for garfish off Dingle being the first recorded instance of dolphins eating the sleek fish also known as the Sea Needle.

One theory as to Fungie's low-profile over recent days has been the arrival of a large number of feeding dolphins off the west Kerry coast - and the suspicion that Fungie has been swimming with his younger compatriots.

Local fisherman Jimmy Flannery said Dingle boat owners are very fond of Fungie. Last May, Jimmy revealed he was taking trips out into the bay at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic just to keep the dolphin company.

Jimmy was taken aback by the realisation that Fungie had become lonely without human interaction over the past two months because of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.

"Fungie was lonely alright," he said. "He followed the (commercial) fishing boats out but they didn't have
time for him. They were too busy heading to the fishing grounds."

Fungie's loneliness stemmed from the fact the entire leisure craft industry which sprang up around the dolphin's antics off Dingle had been suspended because of the Covid-19 lockdown after March.

Without his normal array of admirers and photographers, Fungie had become lonely. Jimmy noticed last May that Fungie wasn't his normal self - and other Dingle fishermen agreed.

From May, Jimmy headed out of Dingle harbour twice a day just to undertake odd fishing chores - but, in reality, he just wanted to give Fungie a little human company.

Jimmy said that Fungie had gotten used to company - and, like most stars, loved an audience and missed it when his fans weren't around.

The fisherman joked that he hopes the dolphin appreciates the company - and doesn't forget Jimmy when his other admirers return after the pandemic!

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