Posted by Philip Collins on October 8, 2007
Gardaí in Dingle yesterday were questioning Fungi the dolphin in relation to claims, made by a 43-year-old mother of two, that he sexually assaulted her as she swam with him in Dingle Bay last week.
The woman, whose name has been withheld from the media for legal reasons, was part of a group of tourists who went out on the boat Lady Revlon II especially to see Dingle’s resident mammalian attraction. However, the party’s swim with Fungi was cut short when one member became very upset and requested to be taken back ashore immediately.
According to John Hannraty, skipper of the Lady Revlon II, Fungi was “particularly sociable that day. Some days he’s interested, some days he’s not. But he definitely took a liking to this group of tourists. But they were only in the water for five minutes when one of the women climbed back into the boat looking very shaken. When she asked to be taken back I just assumed she was ill or something.”
The next day the woman and her friends entered Dingle Garda Station and reported the bottlenose dolphin for sexual assault. Dervla Quirke of The Kerryperson newspaper says that this is not the first time allegations have been made against Fungi:
“Ever since Fungi first appeared in Dingle Bay, and people started to go out to meet him, there have been many stories about his… peccadilloes, shall we say. Rumours about his busy bottlenose and how he likes to investigate various nooks and crannies have been floating around for years, but until now the Dingle Tourist Board have been very successful in keeping these stories under wraps.”
Since the complaint went public earlier this week, several other people have subsequently come forward with their own stories of being molested by Fungi while swimming with him. But John Hanratty is dismissive of the claims:
“Why are they only coming out with these stories now, why not before? It seems to me they’re just trying to jump on board this witch-hunt. Remember, he hasn’t been found guilty of anything yet despite all this media hoo-hah…
“Now I didn’t personally see what happened between Fungi and this woman, but she may be just overreacting a little bit, he is a very playful and tactile creature after all. Anyway, here’s one thing everyone’s forgetting – he’s a bloody animal for God’s sake! How can he possibly be a sexual deviant?”
Up to recently, many dolphin experts would have agreed with Mr Hanratty’s views on dolphins. However recent evidence has come to light that reveals dolphins may be more dysfunctional and delinquent than previously thought. An episode of the BBC’s Blue Planet shown last month caused controversy after it broadcast disturbing footage of a school of male dolphins chasing down and raping a female killer whale.
Over 250 viewers complained to ITC about the programme, which was shown before the nine o’clock watershed. Most of the complaints were made by parents who say their children were left “quite disturbed” and “very upset” after the 30-minute episode that focused on the anti-social behaviour of dolphins in the wild.
The BBC claim the footage is unprecedented in the study of the mammal, and therefore they had a professional responsibility to show the images. David Attenborough, the shows narrator, defended the images today: “I really don’t know what all the bother is about, if gang rape happens in the wild then we have a duty to document it. There’s no happy ending in the natural world – it’s not a fucking Disney film!! End of.”
A panel of the world’s foremost dolphin experts have also spoken up for the programme. In a joint statement, they said “it proves that dolphins are extremely intelligent creatures, much more advanced than previously thought, capable of highly complex acts of misogyny and violence. This is ground-breaking footage, very important to the study of this mammal.”
This matter has also sparked outrage amongst feminists, including writer and critic Pearl Caligula, who says that “to describe an act of rape as a sign of intelligence is disgusting, even if it is in the animal kingdom. This male chauvinist sea-pig Fungi has proved they are only too willing to take advantage of human women as well. And as we all know, female animals have even less rights than human females. We say this is something that needs to be addressed… like right now!”