Fungie the dolphin has become something of a national treasure since making his home off the coast of Dingle in Ireland more than 30 years ago.
Since then he’s become so friendly with the locals that he’s become a tourist attraction in his own right with pleasure cruises set up just to take people out to see him. He rarely disappoints as he swims up close to boats, leaping out of the water and allowing people to stroke him.
Since the coronavirus lockdown, however, Fungie has been lonely because tourists can no longer visit him. He’d got used to human company so the sudden change must have been bewildering for the effervescent bottlenose dolphin who’s now thought to be about 50 years old.
That all changed when he got his first visitor in months.
Jimmy Flannery, who runs Dingle Sea Safari, was so concerned about Fungie that he got special government clearance to be allowed to go out to check he was all right. Jimmy had got to know Fungie well through his work as chairman of Dingle Dolphin Tours.
He told the Irish Mirror: “I just wanted to make sure he was OK. I was worried. I think he thrives on company, otherwise why would he still be here?
“He is absolutely fantastic. He is as good and as fit as ever. We have gone down five or six times since we got the clearance and definitely half of that time he has jumped clean out of the water enjoying the company.
“I went out in a small boat and he would nearly jump into the boat with you. He will be delighted to see other people as well when this is all over. He is an amazing creature and more active than he has ever been.”
Fungie is thought to be the longest living solitary dolphin in the world and there’s little doubt that he has been missing human company.
Jimmy said he was even more boisterous than usual when he saw the boat crew: “He was coming over very quickly. Before we got to the Skellig Hotel, which is just after leaving the harbour, Fungie was coming flying towards us already. He has never ever been this long without company. There are plenty of other people who go down to see Fungie even all through the winter time.
“They have not been getting out to see him. The experts have always told us to keep doing what you’re doing because obviously he enjoys it and if he didn’t he would go away.
“He is still a totally wild animal who feeds himself. There is no reason for Fungie to do what he does, only that he wants to.”
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