As we head into the new year it is good to be able to report that all our friendly dolphins are in good health. Fungie here in Dingle is not in the news so much these days as he is not so interactive any more and his time is more taken up with boats. However, several of the dolphin-friendly community who have settled here over the years – including irishdolphins.com’s webmaster, Keith Buchanan – have taken advantage of the quiet back end of the year to go out swimming with him over the past few weeks, and they report that he looks as fit as ever. Fungie tends to interact only briefly but can still put on a fine display of leaping and jumping when he feels like it.
Dusty up in Fanore is also well despite the first winter storms and the cold weather in mid-December. Hardly anyone goes to visit her in the winter which is not surprising when you consider the water temperature has been down to 8ºC, but one of the hardy souls is our correspondent Ute Margreff. Ute has been swimming very regularly with Dusty for the last 18 months and has built up a fantastic relationship with her.
All the political problems over access to Dusty have subsided with the advent of winter but they remain unresolved and are likely to emerge again next year if the dolphin stays in Fanore and we have good weather to draw the crowds.
Even colder waters face potential dolphin swimmers who are following Dony, the Dunquin dolphin, on his grand tour of Europe. His amazing journey has taken him back and forth across several national boundaries during the last three weeks and he has learnt to navigate through canals, sea locks and sluice gates in the Flemish and Dutch polder lands. The fresh water in the enclosed waters there has been close to freezing point but Dony is a tough breed of dolphin and he seems to cope. Ute and another irishdolphins correspondent, Gauthier Chapelle, swam with Dony in Boulogne, France at the beginning of December and reported that he was healthier than ever. Ute had swum with Dony in the Blasket Islands in July 2001 so her comments were particularly valuable. During his stay in England, Dony was much criticised in the media for his supposedly agressive behaviour, while wherever he has been, local experts have pronounced him in need of rescuing on health grounds. On the former point Ute was clear that Dony was as gentle as a lamb and in no way aggressive with her or the other people swimming in Boulogne. On the health issue, we suspect that the calls for intervention have often been motivated by other concerns, as they are usually linked to the captivity industry. Ill-advised “rescues” were attempted in both Weymouth, England and Blankenberg, Belgium, and in Antwerp staff from the local zoo tried to feed the dolphin. Staff at Harderwijk dolphinarium in Holland have stated that Dony is an ex-captive dolphin (which we don’t believe for a minute) and both this institution and the Sea Life Centre at Blankenberg (where they actually used nets in their thankfully failed attempt to capture Dony) would no doubt love to add him to their collections of sick and dying dolphins. Luckily Dony has so far managed to evade all those eager to help him, from whatever motives, and is determinedly setting his own unpredictable course. We wish him sparkling waters and lots more adventures in 2003!
STOP PRESS: Gauthier Chapelle and Véronique Everarts swam with Dony again on 28th December and say that he was loving the attention and is as keen for contact as ever.
Sandy, the Inis Oir dolphin, continues to keep a low profile. As far as we know she is still there and still interacts with the occasional divers who venture out to her remote home waters, though we have had no reports for several months now.
Over in the Basque country, Flint the interactive dolphin at San Sebastian is still around and has so far been spared any injury due to the sinking of the Prestige oil tanker. Filippo is still over in Italy and with Flipper in Norway that makes up all the other currently interactive dolphins we know about in Europe. During 2003 we may consider expanding the website to bring you news of these other dolphins as well as the ‘Irish’ dolphins. If Dony has shown us anything over the last year it is that national and political borders are artificial and meaningless to dolphins, so maybe we could also think about expanding our own horizons!