Dingle is missing a favourite son, TV presenter Dáithí Ó Se said, as the much-loved dolphin Fungie has been missing for more than a week.
The town has been scouring the area for the world-famous bottlenose, and even called in Mallow sub aqua unit to search the harbour, using sonar to scan the sea bed and sending out divers — but Fungie has not been found.
“It’s been a very sad few days," said Ó Se.
“People at home are very, very worried. It’s like a human has gone missing, he’s a friend of Dingle, there’s no sign of our buddy Fungie and we’re very, very worried.
“And the longer this goes on, the worse it’s looking.
Dáithí, a Kerry native and co-host of RTÉ One'sshow, said that Fungie has not just become an integral part of the community, but has also been a huge economic asset to the rural area, attracting millions of people to visit and fall in love with Fungie’s adopted home.
He estimated that Fungie has generated up to €1bn for Ireland, attracting people from all over the world to visit the country.
"He’s been there for over 30 years, bringing people down to see him, and then being part of every advertising campaign to get people to Kerry and to Ireland. He was a Godsend."
Some people locally have suggested that another pod of dolphins may have arrived into Dingle Bay and lured Fungie out to join them, Dáithí said, but no one yet knows what happened to the dolphin who was first seen in Dingle in the 1980s.
"I was only about 11 when Fungie arrived," said Ó Se. "I remember talking about it, and then Fungie was there forever.
"We always went out to see him. We went there after the Rose of Tralee last year and I brought Micheál out to see him and he couldn’t believe there was a dolphin near Nana’s house. We all have pictures of him and everything.
“Jimmy Flannery, who runs Dingle Sea Safari, was on theshow this week saying he hadn’t been seen in days and it’s totally out of character. He was just distraught.
“Fungie was probably the biggest member of Team Dingle."
Dáithí said that if Fungie, who has been in Dingle for 37 years, has gone, his loss will be felt "all over the country."