It was saddening to learn recently of the death of Olin, a female Spotted Dolphin living in close contact with humans in the Gulf of Aqaba, Egypt. Perhaps Olin was not as well known to us as the 'friendly' dolphins we have in this part of the world, but she plays a key part in a very interesting true story.
In the early-mid 1990's two Spotted Dolphins were seen close to Nuweiba, Egypt. Within a couple of days one of them, a male, was found stranded on a beach and the other dolphin, an adult female, stayed in the area after his death. The female dolphin was sighted by members of a Bedouin tribe, and began following and interacting with the Bedouins when they went out fishing, though she was not interested in any offers of food.
The dolphin paid particular attention to a young man called Abid'allah, a deaf mute since an accident as a young child. The pair formed a very close and strong friendship, and with time Abid'allah began to regain his hearing and speech, through coincidence or otherwise. The first word he spoke was 'Olin'- his version of the English word he had heard, 'Dolphin', hence the dolphin's name.
This incredible friendship attracted attention, and subsequently tourism, though any interaction tourists or visitors had with Olin was supervised by the Bedouins, and as a wild dolphin she lived alongside them by choice, she wasn't forced in any way to interact with people.
Olin was found on a beach north of Nuweiba on Friday 9th December 2004, it is not exactly clear what caused her death, though photo identification confirmed that the dolphin found was definitely her. During her life Olin gave birth to three calves, sadly the first two died, but her third, a female called Fraragallah/ Mabsutta, born in October 2000, still lives in the Gulf of Aqaba.
This was perhaps one of the happier examples of wild dolphins interacting with people, and Olin will certainly be missed by many around the world, particularly those in the Muzeina Tribe, and of course Abid'allah, whose life she transformed.
This story of the extraordinary friendship between Abid'allah and Olin is described in the book 'The Dolphin's Boy', written by Pascale Noa Bercovitch.