Charting interactions between dolphins and people
Irish Dolphins - Interactions between dolphins and people.  Including Fungie the Dingle Dolphin
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History and first interactions

First in the water with Dony was Feargal Slattery The small, heavily scarred male bottlenose dolphin who became known as ‘Dony’ turned up off the Dingle peninsula in April 2001. Ballydavid fisherman Padraig O’Sullivan reported that such a dolphin followed his boat from Carrigaholt, Co.Clare, to Smerwick Harbour at the western end of the peninsula. Over subsequent days the dolphin was seen around the harbour and followed Padraig’s boat around the headland, through the Blasket Sound and as far as the mouth of Dingle Harbour, where the dolphin known as ‘Fungie’ lives. The two dolphins were not seen together on this occasion and ‘Dony’ was later back in Smerwick. He readily approached small boats and allowed himself to be stroked. No-one went in swimming with him at this stage.

A couple of weeks later, at the beginning of May, the dolphin turned up in the Blasket Sound and soon started following boats around this area, in particular the island ferry An t’Oileánach Glic which operates between Dunquin and the Great Blasket. On May 7th, the ferry skipper Feargal Slattery put on his wetsuit and got into the water, and found the dolphin very keen to interact.

A couple of days later other people (including the present author) got into the water with the dolphin when he followed the ferry into Dunquin, and found him equally willing to interact there. On this occasion about ten local people swam with the dolphin only metres from the slipway and jetty. He came to everyone in turn and allowed everyone to touch and stroke him. He ignored both a naomhóg (canvas rowing boat) and a small boat with outboard motor which were moving around the harbour. The dolphin stayed around as long as there was a swimmer in the water and seemed to be unwilling to allow the last swimmer to get out of the water, constantly blocking her path and turning her away, though without ever actually imposing his superior force.

Dony displayed his penis frequently throughout this and later swimming sessions, and often swam towards someone, turned on his back and came up under them in an approximation of a mating position. He seemed to be more interested in females when there was a choice, and was thought by some to be scanning their genital regions. Some women got unnerved with the apparently sexual nature of his behaviour and wisely left the water.
Dony also opened his mouth in interaction with swimmers and one person suffered a hole in his wetsuit as a result - however, no injury to himself! We interpreted this as curiosity about the nature of the 'skin', i.e. neoprene, as he never did it again once he knew what it was. Unlike most other sociable dolphins we have encountered, Dony at this stage showed no preference for strong swimmers or for snorkellers who were good at free-diving, and he seemed interested in everybody who got in the water.
Date Posted: 14/07/2001
Date Edited: 24/09/2007

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