Hope fades in search for missing Fungie

Boats and a team of divers have been searching for Fungie after he disappeared off the coast of Co Kerry more than a week ago.
Hope fades in search for missing Fungie

Dr Kevin Flannery, marine biologist and director of Oceanworld in Dingle, expressed hope that Fungie was still alive.  Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Hope is fading in the search for missing Fungie, the celebrity dolphin that transformed the economic life of the south west of the country for over four decades.

Boats and a team of divers have been searching for Fungie after he disappeared off the coast of Co Kerry more than a week ago.

The resident dolphin has been part of the fabric of Dingle since 1983, after he arrived in the harbour and never left.

Fungie established Dingle Peninsula as a tourist destination, creating many jobs for local people and attracting millions of tourists over the years.

Fungie was named the oldest solitary dolphin in the world by Guinness World Records last year and the local tourism industry is often bustling with boat trips to see the male bottlenose dolphin.

People are afraid the dolphin is either dead or has left with a pod of other dolphins.

Caroline Boland, from Dingle Peninsula Tourism Alliance, said: "When Fungie appeared here in 1983 there was no such thing as tourism - emigration was rife, fishing was under threat and there were no jobs.

"Fungie never left and he quickly became part of community.

"It was only as the story of Fungie spread that people started arriving and asked to go out and see the dolphin, and that's how the boat trips started.

She said the dolphin is like family to everyone in Dingle and people are devastated that he is missing. 

"It is very raw to talk about and people are starting to grieve," she said. 

Fungie lived in the mouth of the harbour and he brought a wonderful spirit to the landscape and culture here.

"He created extra magic and the community embraced him. You couldn't put a value on how he has inspired us all and he brought a magical experience to the bay," she said.

Marine biologist and director of the Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium, Dr Kevin Flannery, said they are hopeful he is still alive.

Dr Flannery added: "He has been phenomenal for the economy of the place and he transformed the views of the millions of people that have visited here.

"The families, teenagers and children that have visited down through the years came to realise that the sea is a place with beautiful and happy creatures, like him, that it is not a place for dumping plastic and not a place for harvesting.

"He will be a huge loss economically - he was part of the family and any person that went out the harbour or any person that went walking would see him over the last 37 years."

Dingle resident Nuala Moore has been swimming in the harbour, and with Fungie, since she was a child.

"The harbour is my swimming pool where I train and prepare for all my big swims and I go there three or four times a week," she said.

"For me Fungie is part and parcel of my swimming pool. I love that he is there as a constant presence of joy in the water.

"I would be hopeful he would be somewhere else and come back. There will be a gap in people's lives for sure."

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