Fungie: Ireland loses hope for beloved dolphin, feared dead

Mounting concern in Ireland for the missing dolphin.

Fungie, probably the most famous dolphin in the world, has not been seen for a week in the harbour of Dingle where he has entertained tourists daily for 37 years.

The disappearance of the friendly bottlenose dolphin, who for decades has drawn hordes of international visitors to the Kerry town, has sparked an extensive search operation, called off yesterday due to bad weather.

There are several theories behind Fungie going "missing" from the bay, on Ireland's south-west coast, which he has graced with his presence since 1983.

Fungie. Photo RTE

One possible explanation is that the dolphin has gone out into the Atlantic following shoals of sprat driven offshore by easterly winds; other theories suggest that Fungie has either joined - or is hiding from - the recent arrival of other dolphins and whales to the area.

The theory that few locals want to put into words is that Fungie is dead. Estimated to be aged somewhere between 38 and 45, Fungie was named the world's oldest solitary dolphin in the 2019 Guinness Book of World Records. The average lifespan of dolphins in the wild is 30-50 years.

Although of a solitary nature among his own species, Fungie has consistently sought out humans, delighting visitors by jumping out of the water and swimming alongside their boats, as well as joining swimmers, divers and kayakers.

His presence in the bay has spawned a massive tourism industry for the peninsula, with up to 12 daily boat trips taking people out to see him.

Photo credit: Jacek Rogoz / Shutterstock.com.

Until last week Fungie had only ever gone "missing" for five or six hours, with local boatmen describing his disappearance as "extremely unusual." Despite a possible sighting by a fisherman on 15 October, the dolphin has not been seen in a week.

There has been a significant search party out looking for the celebrity dolphin, involving a team of divers scouring the bay, experts using sonar to scan the seafloor, and a fleet of boats covering a 12-km stretch of sea along the coast.

Jimmy Flannery, who runs Dingle Sea Safari, released a statement saying: "At this stage we are calling off the search in the hopes that Fungie has just gone off on an adventure and if he so chooses will one day return to us."

Heartbroken locals say they are still wishing for a "miracle" as hopes fade that the little dolphin will return to the bay he called his home for so many years.

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Address Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland

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Fungie: Ireland loses hope for beloved dolphin, feared dead

Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland

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