Ireland makes a splash as a haven for dolphin interaction
IRELAND is fast emerging as a model for the rest of the world in the positive interaction between dolphins and humans off its coast.
It began with Fungi in Dingle in the early 1980s, but since then a growing number of dolphins along the west coast have been befriending humans and attracting global attention.
This was evident when dolphin swimmers and experts from 15 countries converged on the Kerry harbour town for an international conference on interactive dolphins.
Conference organiser, Keith Buchanan of Irishdolphins.com, confirmed that Ireland's burgeoning reputation for interactive dolphins, was one of the reasons the event attracted a huge response.
"Ireland is being seen as a model for the rest of the world," he said. "People are more educated and respectful of the dolphins. There appears to be an automatic respect for the dolphin in the communities where they appear."
An estimated 90 solitary or sociable dolphins have been recorded worldwide with Ireland clocking up seven several years ago.
Dingle Bay's Fungi holds the title as the world's longest resident solitary dolphin and has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors and swimmers over the years to the Kerry coast.
But in recent years, competition has been cropping up from dolphins such as Dusty, who has been swimming off west Clare since 2000, and Duggie, who first appeared off Tory Island two years ago.
Ute Margress, who has been swimming with Dusty for the past eight years, said: "Dusty will often bring me fish as a gift. She has introduced me to a basking shark and sunfish."
However, some experts are concerned that the dolphin becomes reliant on the human contact.
But Ms Margress has a different view: "I believe the dolphin is in control all the time. I am a tractor to its Ferrari in the water."