Charting interactions between dolphins and people
Irish Dolphins - Interactions between dolphins and people.  Including Fungie the Dingle Dolphin
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Thu, 4th July

It is not for showing off, but ever since I started swimming with Fungi in 1992 I have felt the presence of those looking on from the shore. Not only am I an intermediate between them and the dolphin, also I am aware of a sense of support from them. Like today, it was raining cats and dogs and still there were people on the rocks going ‘gee’ and ‘hoowee’ when Dusty and Ute and I were doing our thing. It was an extra reward later finding a note finding a note from a French family under my window wiper, telling me how to get the pictures they took. Hopefully soon in the '' gallery.

Being people we try to make sense of behaviour and one of the first things we try to discern is a pattern. Though dolphins are very unaccountable in this respect, the series of reports I have written in the last two weeks show Dusty's increasing dexterity in handling the waterwing. My reference here to fingers and hand is intentional. Just try pushing a flat object through the water in a straight line. Even if you spread all your fingers, this is hard to do. Dusty pinpoints it on the one tip of her lower beak and then races away with it.

She learnt to do this very rapidly all by herself and now she is showing a spectacular skill, mostly only for my eyes as it is under water. This seems to be a next step, going for the waterwing and then taking off with it to deeper water. As she has become rather demanding I try to establish a mode of conduct with her: she only gets to swim with the waterwing, when I give it to her. At the surface, she should understand, it is mine. After all I do need it for my swimming. It is grand, though, to see with what grace she moves herself towards me, just to point her beak against the very handle of the wing. If she persists, I simply turn my back on her. That's the kind of body language she should understand.

But when I give the wing a downward push, she can have a go at it. And that she does, full power, pushing in to ten metres deep, then watching it travel ever faster to the surface and snatch it again, only to take it farther and deeper. She tosses it about with natural ease as if she is looking for the perfect touch and then she goes into 'Warp speed’; disappearing with a flash in the green, grey. Her antics with the waterwing have increased daily, and this also goes for the distance she takes it out. Today I had to be directed by Ute, standing high on the rocks as to where she had left it. When I finally recovered it, she tried all kinds of tricks to get it again, she even went very close under me, nearly carrying me, and stuck her beak between my hands and pushed down on the handle. But there is gentleness even in her nagging. If she wants to she can take it from me anytime.

She kept trying to take it, all the way in, blocking me, even showing her teeth. 'You can't always get what you want', especially if you
don't bring it back. Just when I struggled out of the water a group of
Belgian dolphin-freaks jumped in, mostly in their underwear, and had the time of their lives.

Dolphins are instantly different to other people.

Jan Ploeg

Date Posted: 04/07/2002
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