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

Bottlenose dolphins in the Blaskets (June 2001) When ‘Dony’ first appeared on the Dingle peninsula in April 2001, he was heavily scarred and bore many tooth-rake marks all over his body. All wild dolphins carry these marks as a result of playing or play-fighting with other dolphins. During his stay around the Blasket Islands, ‘Dony’ gained several new scars, including new tooth-rake marks on his dorsal fin. That he had been interacting with other dolphins was confirmed on May 29th. The previous day, Dony himself was not seen, but a group of 15-20 bottlenose dolphins was observed frolicking around off the island. We believe these to be the semi-resident pod of Dingle Bay dolphins which are seen from time to time in various locations on the north side of the bay. On the 29th, we saw both Dony and the group together. Dony stayed with a snorkeller in the shallow water inside the island mooring while the group swam actively around only 50m-100m offshore, apparently feeding and/or playing. At times a section of the main group, numbering from 3 to 6 individuals, would detach themselves and swim right into the shallows and underneath Graham, who was snorkelling. Dony would briefly swim away while Graham's attention was drawn to the other dolphins, only to re-appear. It was not clear what if any was the nature of any interactions between Dony and the other dolphins. Throughout this, the island ferry was tied up to the mooring, with many people on board watching. Later, with Keith in the water, Dony played constantly with him and totally ignored the group of dolphins who came and went between 50m and 200m away. During this time Graham had the hydrophone deployed on board the island ferry and confirmed that the group were vocalising constantly and using a wide variety of clicks, whistles and squeaks, whereas Dony apparently remained silent.

A similar scenario was repeated on the 4th June, with one notable difference. On this day, before any swimmers arrive, Dony bow-rode with the ferry across to the mainland, as usual, but accompanied by one other dolphin! On the way back they swam side by side most of the way, maybe a metre apart. Returning to the island mooring, swimmers entered the water and Dony was immediately interacting with them, the other dolphin having disappeared, presumably rejoining the main group somewhere offshore. This main group then appeared after about 15 minutes and a large part of their number swam even closer in to the shore than before. They were right in amongst the swimmers and only 5m-10m from the rocks where spectators were sitting, in a depth of 3m-10m. Again Dony stuck closely to the swimmers throughout the encounter, which lasted nearly an hour until the group of dolphins left, possible as a result of being chased around by an inflatable. Dony however stayed and continued to interact for several hours.

The conspicuous feature of the observed interactions was that Dony preferred the company of the human swimmers to that of the group of dolphins. No physical contact was seen between Dony and the other dolphins, and yet he kept picking up these tooth-rake marks.

Interaction with other Dolphins - Dony & Fungie

On 10th and 12th June 2001 a second dolphin was reported swimming with ‘Fungie’ the Dingle dolphin in his usual spot at the mouth of Dingle harbour. The dolphin was said by several witnesses to be scarred and much smaller than Fungie, and as Dony was not seen near the island at these times, we are confident that it was him. On the one occasion the visiting dolphin approached swimmers in the shallows off Sláidin beach and mouthed one person’s arm, something Fungie has never done. On the other, the two dolphins were described as playing together. Fungie has not previously been reliably observed to play with other dolphins, although he has certainly encountered the ‘Minard’ dolphins on many occasions over the years and these have been right inside his ‘territory’ on a couple of occasions.
During rough weather which prevented the Blasket Ferries from sailing for a number of days at the beginning of July, Dony was again seen by various witnesses playing with Fungie at the mouth of Dingle harbour on at least three evenings (2nd, 3rd and 5th July). On the two latter occasions, when there were swimmers in the water, Dony immediately came over to them and interacted with them just as he had done when on his own in the island.

During his sojourn on the south coast of England in spring and summer 2002, Dony/Georges was also seen to interact with other dolphins, for example on 1st May at Bridport, Dorset and on 15th July at Torbay, Devon (Durlston Marine Project).

Interactions with other Dolphins - Dony & Jean Floc'h

In March 2003, Dony met and interacted with the newly resident 'Brittany' dolphin known as Jean-Floc’h off Cap Sizun in Douarnenez Bay, Brittany, France. Another record for Dony: the only wild and interactive dolphin known to have interacted with two other named wild and interactive dolphins!
Dony and Jean-Floc’h playing together: December 2003
After Dony’s summer season further south in Vendée, the two dolphins apparently met up again in Brittany in October off the Crozon peninsula. During December 2003 they seem to have been in each other's company more or less continuously, with frequent sightings in the Cap Sizun area. Hardy swimmers aiming to meet one or other dolphin during the Christmas holiday found themselves enjoying the company of both dolphins - a previously unheard-of occurrence in terms of interactions with 'solo' dolphins! During these events, the dolphins would often interact independently with different swimmers, but at times they would also interact together, for example accompanying a swimmer one on either side. In the spring of 2004, Dony started to roam more widely around Brittany, but often returned to interact with Jean-Floc’h off Cap Sizun. Of 30 Dony sightings during the six months from 6th December 2003 to 6th June 2004, he was with Jean Floc’h on 25 occasions, although there were also about 30 other sightings of Jean Floc’h alone. Suddenly in the middle of June, both dolphins take off; Dony to head south to Charente-Maritime and Jean-Floc’h to wander like he never has before all up and down the Brittany coastline. (For details of his movements, see the Réseau Cétacés website (French only)).Lucky Pamela has two dolphins to choose from!Fascinating that on the one hand, Jean-Floch’s marked site fidelity seems to have provided a focal point for Dony, making the mid-winter period around Cap Sizun the most stable of all his known locations since he left Ireland; whilst on the other, Jean-Floc’h, who has previously been stationary in one place, after spending time with Dony becomes another wanderer!

Our French-speaking readers may like to read some very detailed accounts of swimming sessions with both dolphins on Paméla Carzon’s website ‘Nomades des Océans’. (Lots of nice pictures too, but be warned, this is a massive page to load unless you have broadband – nearly 1MB in fact!)

Dony and other dolphins

Réseau Cétacés received a report that on 16th July 2004, Dony was seen interacting with an unknown number of other wild dolphins in La Cotinière, Ile de l’Oléron. Similar reports began to emerge when Dony was around the Audierne - Brest area and during 2005 it became clear that he was also interacting with the resident pod of dolphins based around the Ile de Sein. Throughout 2006 and 2007 Dony continued to interact alternately with this pod, with Jean F'loch and with human swimmers.
In 2007 when Dony turned up off the south coast of England again he was soon seen in the company of another dolphin, at West Bay in Dorset and off Dawlish in Devon, where he was also joined by a pod of about 15 dolphins believed to be the resident Teignmouth group.

In summary, the records we have collected of Dony's interactions with other dolphins clearly give the lie to the frequently quoted myth that dolphins which interact with human beings are somehow rejected by the other dolphins or unable to associate with them. It is indeed all a matter of choice.
Date Posted: 14/07/2001
Date Edited: 24/09/2007

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