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'Everyone is very worried' - massive search operation for Fungie the dolphin as fears grow for his safety


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

A MASSIVE search operation resumed in Kerry at first light today amid mounting fears for the safety of Fungie, Dingle's legendary dolphin.

Despite a reported sighting of the Common Bottlenose Dolphin last Thursday morning, there has been no trace of Fungie in Dingle Bay either on Friday or Saturday.

Now, eight craft began a search for the third day of extended waters around the west Cork port where Fungie normally feeds and frolics.

He wasn't seen last Wednesday - and, despite the sighting on Thursday morning by a local fisherman, there was no trace of Fungie on Friday or Saturday despite a fleet of boats out looking for him.

The search has now been extended to a near 15km stretch of coastline off Dingle. This is far wider than Fungie's normal area of activity.

Fishing boats have also been asked to keep a lookout for Fungie in case he has followed shoals of fish far out to sea to feed.

The sighting last Thursday prompted hopes that Fungie was merely avoiding his normal areas of activity because of the presence of other dolphins and even whales.

Fisherman Paul Hand said he was "one thousand per cent certain" he spotted Fungie last Thursday.

However, avid Fungie watchers fear that something is badly wrong and that the dolphin may either be sick or dead.

Worry has been compounded by the fact Fungie normally never leaves his traditional patrol area for more than a few hours.

Dingle Sea Safari boat operator Jimmy Flannery said it is not like Fungie at all.

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Last May Jimmy took his boat out at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown just to keep Fungie company in case he was lonely at the absence of his normal audience of admirers.

"It is not like him at all," Jimmy said.

Another boat operator said that, since Fungie arrived in Dingle Bay back in 1983, he has never vanished for so long.

"Everyone is very worried," he said.

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, divers, 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.

For the past 37 years, Fungie has helped underpin a major marine tourism business in west Kerry with a dozen craft offering dolphin watching excursions.

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