FIND FUNGIE Four possible sightings of missing dolphin Fungie being investigated in Kerry
FOUR possible sightings of missing dolphin Fungie are being investigated in Kerry.
However, Dingle Oceanworld director Kevin Flannery said that while the sightings are genuine, Fungie fans should prepare themselves for the likely news that he is gone for good.
The sightings were reported over the past 36 hours at Slea Head, Inch, Kells and Ballyferriter in west Kerry, nearly exactly a week since he disappeared.
The areas are not associated with Fungie’s usual territory
Huge shoals of sprat have drawn dolphins and humpback whales to the west Kerry coast over the past fortnight.
Some local people fear the sightings, from a distance, were of whales or even common dolphins. Fungie is a bottlenose dolphin.
“We’ve had a lot of calls about sightings and they’re all being checked out, but I think the likely and sad inevitability is that Fungie has moved on,” Mr Flannery said.
“I think it’s also very important to say that Fungie’s legacy lives on here in Dingle and, in fact, across Ireland in terms of modern environmental awareness, a growing eco-tourism industry and sustainable operations within our fishing industry.”
He said Fungie’s impact on west Kerry was so great in the 1980s that Ireland, under pressure from worried Kerry fishermen and boatmen, became one of the first countries to create sanctuary waters for whales and dolphins.
“Former Taoiseach Charles Haughey spent a lot of time in Dingle and played a key part in the environmental initiative, so Fungie made a difference, even at the top level of government,” Mr Flannery said.
He added that people in Dingle and throughout Ireland are slowly beginning to understand just how fortunate they were to have Fungie for 37 years.
One theory as to why he stayed so long is that he was released into the wild while young after being an attraction at an aquarium and had developed a need for human contact.
“It’s a 100 million-to-one chance that a male bottlenose dolphin will ever arrive off Dingle again and make it his home the way Fungie did,” Mr Flannery said.
Few people know Fungie had a girlfriend around a decade ago. He formed an attachment to a young female dolphin off west Kerry for a summer.
It is believed that, when she was pregnant, she found the tourist attention in Dingle too much and went somewhere quieter to raise her calf.
“If you want to be romantic, maybe it’s nice to think that Fungie has gone off to look for his family,” Mr Flannery said.
Retired fisherman James Sheehy, who was out walking his dog on Dingle Pier, said the loss of Fungie has hit the town hard.
“I only saw him last Tuesday week. What are the Dingle boatmen going to do now?” he said.
Aideen Bácaéir, of Dingle Goldsmiths, said the loss is a “terrible” blow for a tourist town already struggling with the lockdown.
Grainne Garnon, of Kerry Woollen Mills, fought back tears as she spoke of Fungie’s disappearance.
“I was born the July before Fungie appeared in Dingle, so I feel as if I grew up with him,” she said.
“For me, Fungie wasn’t a commodity or a tourist attraction, he was part of life in Dingle and west Kerry.”
Even those from overseas understand what Fungie meant to the entire Dingle peninsula.
“Fungie is part of our shop logo – we have a dolphin emblem on our bags,” said Morgan Brophy, the assistant manager of Garvey’s Sports, who was born in Australia.
Up to 10 boats offer Fungie- watching excursions in Dingle Bay, and the dolphin even has his own statue in the town.