Oldest solitary dolphin happy for human contact amid COVID-19 pandemic

The oldest solitary dolphin is solitary no more, at least not after a friendly fisherman took it upon himself to keep Fungie company during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fungie, a male common bottlenose dolphin, swims near the town of Dingle, which is in County Kerry, Ireland, according to the Independent.ie.

Jimmy Flannery, who runs Dingle Sea Safari, noticed Fungie was not his normal self - and other Dingle fishermen who carefully watched the dolphin agreed, according to the Independtent.ie.

Fungie, also affectionately nicknamed the Dingle Dolphin, had no human interaction for nearly two months because of the pandemic and Flannery decided to do something about it.

"Fungie was lonely alright," Flannery said. The poor creature missed his hoards of admirers.

"He follows the (commercial) fishing boats out but they don't have time for him. They are too busy heading to the fishing grounds," Flannery added.

Fungie is a big attraction for the small town of Dingle. Vacationers would come to ride leisure boats just to get a chance to interact with the dolphin.

But now that the visitors have stopped coming, Flannery takes two daily fishing trips out of Dingle harbor to visit Fungie to give him the loving attention he needs.

“People from all walks of life, from all over the world, from 2 weeks to 93 years old, have come to Dingle especially to see Fungie,” according to the Dingle Sea Safari website.

Marine biologists were astounded at the manner in which the dolphin appeared to actively seek out human contact.

“In 1984, Paddy Ferriter, the Dingle Harbour lighthouse keeper, first began watching a lone wild dolphin escort the town’s fishing boats to and from port. By August of that year, local Ministry of Marine manager Kevin Flannery was able to officially record the dolphin as a ‘permanent’ resident of the entrance channel and self-appointed ‘pilot’ of the fleet,” according to Fungie’s biography.

Flannery joked that he hoped the dolphin appreciated the company and doesn't forget him once the lockdown is lifted.