Monday 22 October 2018

"He's a freak in many ways" - Fungie's love for Dingle baffles scientists

Fungie, still baffling scientists after all these years.
Fungie, still baffling scientists after all these years.
Fungie the Dingle Dolphin

Nick Bramhill

He's the world-famous dolphin who continues to attract thousands of tourists to Dingle, Co Kerry, every year. But why is Fungie attracted there himself?

Marine biologists have admitted they are baffled as to why Fungie the dolphin has remained in the coastal Co Kerry town's harbour for the past 31 years.

The friendly solitary male bottlenose dolphin was first spotted in 1983 in Dingle harbour by late lighthouse keeper Paddy Ferriter. Experts admit they are amazed the 300kg mammal has remained there ever since, as they say it's not consistent with dolphin behaviour.

Padraig Whooley, spokesman for the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, said:

"Dolphins are complex creatures and we're learning about them the whole time, but we know they are highly mobile and do tend to move around a lot. Fungie's different to most in that he is sociable and seems to like the attention he gets. It's highly unusual for a bottlenose dolphin to have remained in the same area for so long. He's a freak in many ways."

However, Fungie may have to share the attention of tourists from now on, after it was confirmed that another male bottlenose dolphin has moved from West Cork and taken up residence in his waters.

Clet, a younger mammal which was first spotted off west Cork in June, moved over 100km west to Dingle Bay earlier this week.

The new sightings off the Kerry coast have prompted marine experts to re-issue warnings to swimmers to keep their distance from Clet, who is known to have a very different temperament to Dingle's most famous resident.

Mr Whooley said it will be fascinating to see if there is any interaction between the two dolphins, should Clet decide to remain in the Kerry area.

However, he said, he expects that "well-travelled" Clet, who was tracked in France and England before arriving in Irish waters and is recognisable by his injured dorsal fin, will only be a temporary visitor.

He added: "We've had two confirmed sightings around Valentia island and it's no great surprise as these animals are highly mobile and he could move up to Galway or even the Hebrides fairly soon.

"Dolphins tend to go to places where there's a lot of traffic and things have quietened down a lot in west Cork recently, so that's probably why Clet has moved up to Dingle Bay. At the moment Clet and Fungie are at opposite sides of Dingle Bay, but it's entirely possible they are aware of each other and are communicating by acoustics."

Mr Whooley said it was unlikely that the two animals would fight, as dolphins are not territorial. "It would only be likely the two of them would fall out if they were competing for the attention of a female. But Fungie could be 40 to 50 years old at this stage and is unlikely to be interested in mating," he added.

Sunday Independent

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