Irish Sister City's Famous Dolphin Mascot Goes Missing
By Lauren Bray, edhat staff
It's a sad time for the small seaside fishing town of Dingle, the Irish sister-city to Santa Barbara.
Earlier this week, residents report the town's marine mascot for 37 years, Fungie the Bottlenose Dolphin, has gone missing. The single dolphin has lived at the entrance to Dingle's harbor since 1983 and is a focus of the town's tourism industry. He even holds a Guinness World Records title-holder for the "longest recorded solitary dolphin."
Dingle boasts dolphin tours, dolphin hats, dolphin shirts, dolphin pens, a dolphin memorial, and even a dolphin sculpture coming out of a building. They even have a dolphin statue resembling those in Santa Barbara that was created by our very own Bud Bottoms.
Fungie statue created by Bud Bottoms in the Dingle town square. (Photo: Wikipedia)
I traveled to Dingle in 2017 and spoke with many locals about their love of Fungie. The owner of the Bed & Breakfast I stayed at explained Fungie would closely follow the boats of the fisherman. Over the years he grew more comfortable with human contact and according to the locals would put on great shows with his dolphin acrobatics.
Fungie was last seen on October 15 when he swam alongside a fisherman's boat. On Monday, October 19, locals helped coordinate an extensive search, according to CNN.
"It is totally out of character for him. The most he has ever disappeared for was four or five hours," Jimmy Flannery, chairperson of Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours, told CNN. "We had 12 boats searching by Saturday, and on Sunday, divers from the Mallow Search and Rescue team carried out an extensive search of the coves and inlets where he would normally be seen. They also carried out a sonar scan of the seabed, but there was no trace."
There are many theories as to why Fungie has disappeared. It could be due to increased COVID-19 restrictions in Ireland that may have signaled something was wrong as boats and tours were not operating as they used to.
It also could simply be his time to sail into the golden sunset. Fungie is at least 37 years old and male bottlenose dolphins have a life expectancy of between 30 to 40 years.
"Fungie is a part of all of our lives," Flannery said. "We are hoping that he has swam off on an adventure. We live in hope that he might come back again."
March 17, 2018: Santa Barbara's Sister-City - Dingle, Ireland