The Fungie dolphin and the Dingle Peninsula (Ireland), in 2014.
The Fungie dolphin and the Dingle Peninsula (Ireland), in 2014 (MICHAEL NOLAN / ROBERT HARDING PREMIUM VIA AFP)

On the Dingle Peninsula in southwest Ireland, locals mourn the loss of one of them. His name is Fungie, he is in his 40s and has not been seen for a month. Distinctive sign: Fungie is a dolphin. If the people of Dingle are so attached to Fungie, it is because this bottlenose dolphin has never left Dingle Bay. It happened in 1983, thirty-seven years ago, and almost every day it showed up. Fishermen, surfers, swimmers … David Tunney has spent his summers in Dingle since Fungie arrived. “He was very sociable, very playful … especially when he was younger. He always came near the boats. He was a really important person in Dingle.” So important that the town hall erected a bronze statue for Fungie, in front of the tourist office.

Because in the bay, tourism has been built thanks to and around the dolphin. Caroline Bolland heads the Tourism Alliance for the Dingle Peninsula. “Thirty-seven years ago, we didn’t know what to do with him. There was no tourism. But fishermen started offering eco-boat tours. Fungie brought that touch of magic to our region. . He brought in lots of people who took the opportunity to find out all there is to do here. ” It was Fungie who put Dingle on the tourist map of Ireland. A success that should last despite his disappearance.


What if Fungie doesn’t come back? Kevin Flannery, doctor of marine biology and director of the Dingle aquarium, is not very optimistic: wild bottlenose dolphins have a life expectancy of about 45 years… And Fungie was already a few years old when he arrived. at Dingle. For Dr. Flannery, Fungie is most likely dead. In thirty-seven years of living together, Fungie will have succeeded in awakening Dingle’s ecological conscience. “The fishermen have realized that they don’t need to plow the sea, that they can just use it to make a living with a new, environmentally friendly industry. That’s what Fungie did. Thanks to him, the kids realized that the sea is beautiful, that it is populated by all these amazing, happy and intelligent animals, and that it needs to be protected. “

In addition to dolphins, seals, whales, the Dingle Peninsula is home to endangered birds like the peregrine falcon and has the status of a protected natural area.



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