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Locals losing hope as bad weather scuppers the search for Fungie

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Worrying times: A search team at Dingle harbour, led by marine biologist Kevin Flannery (centre), try to spot Fungie. PHOTO: Domnick Walsh

Worrying times: A search team at Dingle harbour, led by marine biologist Kevin Flannery (centre), try to spot Fungie. PHOTO: Domnick Walsh

Worrying times: A search team at Dingle harbour, led by marine biologist Kevin Flannery (centre), try to spot Fungie. PHOTO: Domnick Walsh

Concern is mounting for Kerry's beloved dolphin Fungie as a search was suspended due to weather ­conditions.

Boatmen scoured Dingle Bay in west Kerry for three days without a trace of the common bottlenose dolphin.

There was concern after he had inexplicably vanished last Wednesday.

A fisherman said he had spotted Fungie on Thursday morning, but follow-up searches by a flotilla of leisure craft and fishing boats failed to obtain further sightings of the popular dolphin.

On Sunday, divers were even deployed in a bid to inspect the caves and narrow inlets where Fungie is known to swim and feed.

No trace of the dolphin was seen and there are mounting fears he may have fallen ill or even died.

Boatmen stressed it was highly unusual for Fungie to leave his normal patrol waters for more than a few hours.

Also known as the Dingle Dolphin, Fungie is famous for his friendly demeanour towards humans.

In all his years as a tourism icon in Dingle, Fungie never left the bay for more than half a day. He arrived in the area in 1983 and is believed to be around 38 years old.

Males generally live for between eight and 17 years.

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However, in exceptional circumstances, dolphins have been known to survive for almost 70 years.

Dingle Sea Safari confirmed that the search was being called off as poor weather swept over the south-west. However, fishermen and boatmen have vowed to keep a lookout for any trace of Fungie.

"Wherever you are, my friend, I hope you are safe and happy and thank you for all the years of joy you have brought to so many people," said ­Dingle Sea Safari.

Boat operator Jimmy Flannery said everyone was "hoping against hope" that Fungie would turn up safe.

"It is totally out of the ordinary for Fungie. It is not like him at all. The longest in my 33 years for him to disappear is just for a few hours.

"He has never been gone this long before. We are just hoping that he is OK. But these are worrying times."

Marine experts stressed that when dolphins die in open water, it is highly unusual for them to then be washed ashore.


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