The Dingle Dolphin

In 1984, a young dolphin appeared in the harbor of a small town called Dingle. Dingle is located off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland, and their main industries are fishing and tourism. The dolphin sighting in and of itself is not uncommon to fishermen, but locals soon began to realize that they were seeing the same, solitary dolphin time after time. It followed boats in and out of the harbor, much like any other pod of dolphins might do every so often. But this bottlenose dolphin, it seemed, was sticking around. Soon, it became clear that this young dolphin had chosen the mouth of the harbor as its permanent residence.

Locals and tourists alike were fascinated by the aquatic visitor, and boating expeditions would frequently go out in hopes of catching a glimpse of the dolphin the local fishermen had named Fungie. Soon there were snorkeling and scuba diving expeditions and the friendly dolphin would swim right up to investigate and play. Fungie even has a bronze statue in his honor located near the harbor.
Fungie is unique because most dolphins spend their life traveling in a group with other dolphins. Elsewhere, there have been documented cases of families of dolphins making their home near humans, but Fungie seems to be the only documented lone dolphin that prefers human companions to his own dolphin kind.

2013 marks Fungi’s 30th anniversary at Dingle, and residents and tourists alike celebrated back in April with a festival in honor of the friendly bottlenose dolphin. I was on study abroad in Ireland at the time, and was lucky enough to be in town for the tail end of the festival. Posters and banners plastered the streets, promising music and entertainment all weekend long. Several classmates and I were stopped by a camerawoman and asked to pose for a photo for the Fungie Facebook page. She encouraged us to go see Fungie if we had time, saying that we would not be disappointed, for he’s never missed visiting a single boat.

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