Charting interactions between dolphins and people
Irish Dolphins - Interactions between dolphins and people.  Including Fungie the Dingle Dolphin
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New interactive dolphin in Coulagh Bay, Co. Cork

At the end of August we received news from Tim Moxey, a regular visitor to the south-west of Ireland, about a new interactive dolphin in the Kenmare estuary.

Tim is an experienced scuba diver and was over from London for a diving trip around St. Finan's Bay and the Skellig islands. During the week, the divers heard on the local ‘grape vine’ about a friendly dolphin in Coulagh Bay and one evening (26th August) they decided to pay him a visit. This dolphin apparently hangs around a salmon farm on the south side of Inishfarnard, which is a small island in Coulagh Bay, itself part of the Kenmare River estuary and in fact just over the border in Co.Cork.

Tim writes: "We met him within a few feet of the salmon farm structures and he stayed very close for approx 2 hours, with us ending the encounter when we went home as it began to get dark. We know it was a 'he' as his penis was sighted later in the encounter when he rolled over a few times and presented 6 inches to us”. (Ed. – that’s BIG for a dolphin, if accurately measured!)

"He did not touch any of us or let any of us touch him while we were in the water but he did push against the boat after we got out. A few times he rushed past us and once I thought there would be an impact, which was a bit scary. During the session I took a set of pictures as he swam around us in the water with an underwater camera. Initially I used the small inbuilt flash but when he 'flinched' once I decided to turn it off. I was not sure if he liked the flash or was troubled by it, so I turned it off. He did seem to 'pose' for some of the pictures especially the 'head on' ones later in the encounter. He opened his mouth every so often but it did not seem to be in a threatening way”.

The closeness of the dolphin in Tim's pictures, and his head-on approach, shows his interactive nature. ‘Normal’ dolphins do not circle closely and repeatedly around divers, although they do sometimes flash past to have a look. Note also how very scarred this dolphin is. His old age is also suggested by the shot of his beak below, showing very worn teeth with several missing altogether. (One might wonder whether his hanging around a salmon farm might be connected with a reduced ability to forage, but my opinion is that dolphins can still catch fish with most of their teeth missing). This behaviour is reminiscent of Fungie or the now sadly deceased Flint in San Sebastian – you can look but not touch.
note the worn and missing teeth What followed, however, has intriguing echoes of Jean Floc’h in Brittany. Tim continues:

“As soon as we had got out of the water at the end (we were a maximum of 8 adults in the water at one time) the dolphin swam about 80m away and seemed to play with a floating rope, which was part of the salmon farm, by rolling up around it almost. He seemed to be 'sulking', but when it did not work he came back. He swam under the RIBs and then turned upside down under the smaller one (6.5m) and rubbed himself under the boat, pushing his tail up and disturbing the boat slightly a few times. As we drove away he jumped at least once but did not follow the boats.”

It’s very interesting that we never heard of dolphins wrapping themselves up in ropes until this year, and now several of them are at it! Rubbing under an inflatable boat, however, is more commonly reported; Fungie used to do this occasionally. Fungie is also inclined to jump like that when a boat he has been playing with drives away.

We waited for a while before putting this news out as we thought we might get more reports, but it seems that the offshore location, combined with the time of year and the poor weather we have been having, may have limited the number of people who may have seen the dolphin. We’re trying to contact the fish farm and will add more info if and when we can. If anybody else has been out to see this dolphin, please let us know!

Click here for a map of the location
Click here to view more images
Date Posted: 15/09/2005
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