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24 September 2014
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   Inside Out - South: Monday 9th September, 2002

LONE DOLPHINS - FRIEND OR FOE?

George the dolphin. Image courtesy of Colin Froud

Growing up with Flipper you may be forgiven for believing that all bottlenose dolphins actively seek out the company of humans.

Yet most live happily in groups ranging from 2 to 25 dolphins.

Occasionally however, individuals choose to snub the company of their dolphin companions in favour of two legged land lovers. And George the dolphin has done just that.

A long term loner, George has previously been sighted in the waters of Ireland, the Channel islands and the coast of France.

Now George has chosen to take up residence is the seaside town of Weymouth, where excited beach goers have been flocking in droves.

Tourist attraction

The lone dolphin phenomenon has caused quite a stir in Weymouth and indeed around the world, were over 20 similar occurrences have been reported.

But before you grab your costume and flippers, it is worth looking back on past lone dolphin encounters to find out what deep water you could be getting yourself into.

Friend or foe?

In 1994 a lone bottlenose dolphin on Brazil’s South Coast had been regularly visiting the local beach of Caraguatatuba.

Tiao in Caraguatatuba
Tiao, like George has an eye for the ladies

Named Tiao he soon became the centre of attention, and could often be found surrounded by as many as 30 bathers, all trying to hitch a lift on his back or grab on to his dorsal fin.

The situation worsened as attempts were made to stick ice cream sticks down his blow hole.

Tragedy struck

Understandably Tiao’s patience was wearing thin. 29 bathers suffered minor injuries, before one swimmer was so severely injured by Tiao, that he later died from internal bleeding.

Later that year, Tiao, dubbed "killer dolphin" by the media, disappeared. It can only be assumed that Tiao had finally had enough and returned to his fellow dolphins.

Unaware of the danger

George has been besieged by excitable bathers and like Taio his patience is wearing thin.

Jenny Alexander
Jenny Alexander has experienced George's boisterous behaviour

George has already been reported to have hospitilised two adults, bitten several children, as well as pushing a young swimmer out to sea.

Chris Packham interviewed dolphin expert Jenny Alexander who describes George as a troubled, over - sexed young man. Yet few bathers at Weymouth seem aware of the dangers George may pose, or the previous incidents in which he has injured, albeit unintentionally, over friendly bathers.

Look, don't touch

As yet, it is still unknown as to why some dolphins choose to actively seek out the company of humans. But while they do, it is up to everyone to respect and protect George and the rest of these beautiful creatures, both for their safety and yours.

A wonderful, curious and tactile creature he may be, but it must not be forgotten that George and all lone dolphins are wild creatures. If we are to protect them and ourselves then interaction should be actively discouraged.

"Just keep your hands in your pockets, don't touch wild animals" Chris Packham

See also ...

On the rest of the web
Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust
UK Marine - bottlenose dolphins
The Mammal Society
WDCS _ George

WDCS - Tiao

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