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Pod of wild dolphins - Pics coming, thanks for waiting

Viewing dolphins in the wild is a wonderful experience. Watching a pod joyfully surf the waves, or swim in perfect synchrony together, being surrounded with anything from one to several hundred at a time so the sea becomes alive with dolphins, viewing a dolphin swiftly accelerate after a fleeing fish, or witnessing a protective tender moment between a mother and her calf, is a joy.

A wild dolphin

Through the years, there have been a few even more magical dolphin encounters where a wild solitary ( or hermit ) dolphin has chosen to allow regular human interaction. This trust was built up gradually over several years.These are just a few of their stories. It is important to note that these dolphins were NOT fed and made the choice to interact.

Wild friendly dolphin

Whilst many of these stories are truly wonderful as in the case of JoJo, Donald or Fungie opposite, sadly many of these special dolphins eventually suffered or died from their closeness and trust in man. Wild dolphins usually live in pods, and are normally very cautious. Dolphins are also very powerful, and are easily strong enough to kill a human, so they must not be harrassed. They are not toys or pets for our pleasure, but are freeliving wild animals. By reading these stories, we can all learn from them. In particular from Tiao's story.

Remember that attempting to feed, swim, or harrass wild dolphins is often illegal around the world. And as explained on page 1, feeding a wild dolphin may lead to its death.

A big thank you to Dr Horace Dobbs and International Dolphin Watch for the great photo above and below of the famous friendly dolphins. All his photos are Copyright IDW. My big thanks also to the noted photographers for allowing me to use their (C) photo on this page. The other photos are of bottlenose dolphins taken by myself.

Famous solitary wild dolphins

JoJo and Dean Jo-Jo and his friend Dean

The reference material for these stories is a marvellous book "Dolphins and their power to heal" by Amanda Cochrane and Karena Callen. I thank them for writing it and highly recommend it to you. As well as covering these amazing encounters in depth , the book also covers all aspects about Dolphins, such as their life, intelligence, and communication, how dolphins are in peril, and conservation issues. Just why these wild dolphins were solitary for a certain time will be explored at the end of page 4

The famous Pelorus Jack

Pelorus Jack appeared in 1888, and was a risso's dolphin. For more than twenty years, he accompanied the ships back and forth between Wellington and Nelson in New Zealand's Cook Strait. If he heard a boat's motor, off he would go, swimming with them for at least 20 minutes, guiding them to the safety of the harbour through the dangerous passage. He seemed to prefer steamers and quickly became famous, and was seen by thousands. He was described widely in newspapers and on postcards. After someone shot at him with a rifle off a ship called "Penguin", a law was passed to protect him. At the time he had been escorting boats for 15 years. The only ship he never helped again was the Penguin, which as fate would have it, later was shipwrecked. As he got older, he missed the occasional trip, and then was not seen again.


bottlenose dolphin

Even before Pelorus Jack, was Gabriel, a 13 ft male bottlenose who befriended children and adults alike in 1814. When some fool realised there was money to be made out of Gabriel, he caught him, and put him on a farm wagon, to take him to London. Sadly, the dolphin of course died painfully on the way.


young dolphin

When first noticed in the New Zealand waters of Opononi in early 1955, Opo was not much over 1 year old and alone. Just prior, a youth had boasted about shooting a dolphin and its possible that it was Opo's mother he shot. Opo loved to escort boats and be gently scratched with an oar or mop. She appeared almost daily, and always responded to the sound of an outboard motor. She quickly became famous, and huge crowds would flock to see her. It took some time for her to allow anyone to get close to her, but when she did, she became incredibly friendly. She particularly loved children, with her favourite being a 13 yr old girl who was always careful to be very gentle with her. Opo would immediately swim to this girl if she entered the water, leaving all others behind. Opo also enjoyed playing with balls, tossing them back to the crowd. Opo became much loved by the town and it became law that no-one could hurt her. Sadly, on the very day it became law, Opo did not appear and her dead body was found jammed between some rocks. The reason for her death was never proven. Did she become stranded whilst searching for fish, or was there foul play, perhaps explosives used in fishing. She was buried beside the memorial hall, her grave covered in flowers, and was greatly mourned by the town. Letters and telegrams expressing their sympathy flooded into the town from all round the world, showing how much happiness this gentle little dolphin had brought to so many people.A statue proudly remembers her at Opononi

Elsa and Horace

In the 1970s in New Zealand, a common dolphin nicknamed Elsa would come close to children who called to her. Later a dolphin named Horace (nicknamed after Horace Dobbs) made his home in Hawkes Bay and quickly won the hearts of the locals. Horace delighted in nudging rudders of boats sending them offcourse. This dolphin was also seen to come to the rescue of people struggling in the water.


bottlenose dolphin

In 1972, the amazing friendship between a spanish fisherman and a local bottlenose dolphin, named Nina began. Nina was so gentle and trusting she allowed people to pet her and hold her tail, and she always followed the fisherman as he collected his clams from the ocean floor. On one occasion, she came to the aid of a panicking swimmer, and lay motionless next to him so he could hold onto her until rescued. Nina's base was about 300m out from the beach in Lorbe Cove, La Corogna and she freely divided her time between everyone but never accepted food, disappearing only for about 1 hour each midday to feed or rest. She quickly became famous and crowds flocked to see her, even Jacques Cousteau, who wrote about Nina in his book Dolphins. All fish netting and fishing by using explosives was then banned, in order to protect her. Sadly, one day Nina seemed distressed, and 5 weeks later, she was found dead, probably from a grenade explosion. By then, she was considered a national heroine, and a statue was built in her fond memory.


Donald a wild friendly dolphin Donald leaps for joy - Photo by Dr Horace Dobbs of International Dolphin Watch Copyright IDW

Donald, or Beaky as he was also called, was a male bottlenose, of about 16 years with a real sense of fun. His playful antics are wonderfully detailed in Horace Dobbs book "Follow a wild dolphin". Over the years 1972 - 1978 he gradually built up his trust, with a local woman named Maura Mitchell being his first human friend, and perhaps favourite, followed closely by Horace and his son. On one occasion, Donald swam underneath Horace's snorkelling son and lifted him upon his back, giving him a memorable ride. He was always playing games, boisterously swimming with his friends, pulling at divers flippers if they tried to exit the water. He would also move moored boats around by grabbing hold of the ropes, and especially liked to tease his other friend a dog named Spratt. Donald seemed to delight in making Spratt crazy, by drenching him with water, or moving from side to side around the boat, with little Spratt running in barking circles to find him. He occasionally got into scrapes. At one point he was stranded, and also nearly got entangled in the wires connected to explosive charges. Later, he got a mooring rope tangled around his tail flukes and was stuck for two days. When he was finally located, he lifted his tail as if to show his rescuers what was wrong. Donald made a lengthy southward odyessey along 480 kms of coastline, from the Isle of Man, to Pembrokshire in Wales, right down to Penzance in Cornwall in 1976, delighting many humans along the journey. In 1977, Donald appeared at Falmouth, taking a fancy to a particular boat, spending hours around it, and winning the hearts of the locals. He was last seen in 1978 just prior to the worst storm on record. Perhaps after that time, he simply rejoined his own kind, after bringing joy to so many people.


Wild dolphin and its reflection

First noticed in 1978 , when she pulled at a boat's anchor rope to the surprise of the fisherman pulling at the other end, Jean-Louis (actually a female) lived in the waters off Brittany for at least 10 years. Her favourite place was Dolphin Rock, a rough cove where she would surf the waves. She loved to play with canoeists, or play hide and seek with swimmers, often imitating their swimming style. Jean-Louis also would swim at top speed from behind a boat, to leap high in front of it. Over the years she became a mascot to the local fisherman and omen of good luck. Horace Dobbs made a film about her called "A Close Encounter", as well as immortalising her in one of his books. She was last seen in 1987.


Dean and JoJo

JoJo and his human friend Dean - Photo by Dr Horace Dobbs of International Dolphin Watch Copyright IDW

Since 1980 in the waters of Providentiales, Jo-Jo has become a real celebrity! An amazing friendship has been forged between this male bottlenose and his human buddy, Dean Bernal. Much loved by the islanders, the government of Turks and Caicos Islands has proclaimed JoJo a national treasure, with a specially appointed warden (Dean) to protect him.While he does interact with other humans, Dean is his absolute favourite and he will abandon everything to be by Dean's side. His other friends included a golden labrador called Toffee, who swam with Jo-Jo, whilst Jo-Jo nibbled at his paws. Jo-Jo is a real adventurer, often harrassing sharks, sometimes involving Dean in this game!. He has been known to present Dean with all sorts of items from the sea bed including sunglasses, money, and seashells and even a manta ray!. It is important to remember with all these amazing dolphins, if provoked they would all be prepared to fight back, and could easily cause serious injuries. Jo-Jo will give someone a sharp flick of his powerful tail, or strong butt with his snout if he is being chased or grabbed at. Like Donald, he's somewhat accident prone, and roams great distances, always eventually coming back to his favourite home range. JoJo has now expanded his 26-mile home range to 260 miles,and is now mating and travelling with other dolphins intermittenly,and continuing to expand his experiences. As he loves to jump and spin in the wake of powerboats, he has often been in danger and has been run over by ski boats, receiving serious injuries. In June 1990, he went missing, and was trapped for two days in a turtle seine net, struggling to survive drowning and bad sunburn. The JoJo dolphin project has been set up to ensure his safety, which you can read about from the link below. This wonderful friendship of Jo-Jo and his human friend continues today. Annie who has spent time in Turks has written to say that during the summers of '96 and '97 she enjoyed some wonderful interactions with Jo-Jo for hours at a time. It saddened her however to see he had so many scars from being hit by boats. She even saw him get hit and rolled over on his side by a local parasail boat. His warden Dean Bernal is working to try and stop ski boats in the area. Horace Dobbs has met JoJo, and writes about this wonderful dolphin in his book "Journey into Dolphin Dreamtime".


bottlenose dolphin First appearing in Cornwall in 1982, and last seen at the end of 1984, Percy was a mature male bottlenose, between 9-12 feet long. For three summers, Percy enjoyed playing outside the harbour entrance, and everyone who saw him commented that he seemed to have a sense of "fun". Initially aloof, it was in 1983 that he really began to allow close contact. He delighted in moving boats around, lifting the anchors and shifting the boats to a different position!. Other games included "tag". Like the others, he was constantly in danger from fishing boats, nets and pollution. In 1983, he was seen doing a number of strange backflips, and it was found that he had a fish-hook close to one of his eyes. No-one was able to remove it, but luckily it gradually came out by itself. Percy was also known for tangling up, then untangling the ropes to lobster pots. He was generally placid and gentle, but could get overexcited and boisterous,with unwelcome attention being rebuffed with a sharp butting or light nip with his sharp teeth.One of Percy's more famous incidents involved a windsurfer who wasnt aware of Percy or his fame. Apparently, Percy tried to jump over the sailboard but either by accident or intent landed right across the front of the board. The sailboard promptly broke under his weight and the sailboarder was perhaps understandably somewhat panicked. Sadly, after Percy's final encounter with one of his favourite people in the winter of 1984, he was not seen again, and the town sadly missed their dolphin friend. Percy is the one of the subjects of Horace Dobb's book "Tale of Two Dolphins".



Simo (opposite)appeared in the fishing town waters of Solva in 1984. He was very playful, following around divers underwater, pushing over canoes and airbeds, upturning the people in them,and also loved leaping around the fishing boats. He had a habit of nipping people with his sharp teeth, and also of sneaking up on swimmers from behind, rising up, and hitting them on the head with his snout, dislodging their snorkel and goggles!. His special favourites were even given pec and dorsal tows, after gaining his trust. He could also be very gentle, and would put his head carefully on people's shoulders to greet them. Sadly, in 1985 he began acting strangely, was very sluggish and quiet instead of his usual boisterous self. He appeared to be struggling, and one day, he surfaced beside a boat, opened his mouth, and sunk back into the water. He was never seen again. It was hoped he had rejoined his kind, but we shall never know. The story of Simo opposite is retold in Horace's book "Dance to a Dolphins Song".

friendly bottlenose dolphin


At first when sighted in 1988 Freddie, a mature male bottlenose was wary of boats and humans in Amble harbour, England. But he gradually became bolder and when a local lady rescued him by untangling him from fishing line, he grew to trust and welcome human's attention. Freddie would even eventually offer dorsal tows, and also gently take a person's arm in his mouth. He could be either very boisterous and play swift games, or quiet and pensive, and was much cared for by the people in the town. Like the others, he quickly became a celebrity, and was under threat from the growing number of boats, jet skis, and general commotion surrounding him. At one time he was badly cut and it was not sure if he would survive, particulary as the water was very polluted. Freddie stars in the book "Journey into Dolphin Dreamtime" along with Jo-Jo, by Horace Dobbs and was last seen in 1992 swimming near Tynemouth far from Amble, then disappearing into the North Sea. You can meet the real Freddie here

Flipper, Jotsa, Dorrie, Dolly and other snippets

leaping dolphinFlipper is a friendly adult male bottlenose, who has spent at least 8-9 years off the beaches of Norway north of Stavanger, moving around. eg from Akrasanden, to a beach named Sandvesanden to Skudeneshavn harbor He divides his time between everyone, much to the delight of those people who have met him. One of his special places now is outside the seahouse where the divers fill their airbottles. He is at risk from speedboats in the area and overzealous people who continue to follow him when he doesnt want to interact. In the same year another friendly solitary bottlenose dolphin named Jotsa, appeared in yugoslavian waters. A friendly dolphin also froliked off the spanish coast of Costa Brava, Spain. As well as Opo, New Zealand had at least one other friendly dolphin who seems to have travelled around and received several nicknames such as Dorrie or Goldie. Another friendly dolphin nicknamed Dolly (or Dolphy?) took up resident in Banyuls-Sur-Mer near the spanish border, France for some time. NEWS FLASH The friendly dolphin known as "Flipper has suffered several deep cuts on his head and back, one very near his dorsal, from the propeller of the vessel "Nøkk" in August 2001. It was feared at first that "Flipper" would die from his injuries but he has since been spotted back in Sandnes harbour, and hopes are high he will 100% recover.


Humans forget just how powerful dolphins are, after all they may be over well over 10ft long and weigh over 500lbs, and like any living creature may retaliate if unduly provoked. Tiao's story emphasises the studipty some humans show towards wild animals. Tiao was a male bottlenose who roamed the waters off San Sebastiao, Brazil in 1994. He would come in close to shore to interact with swimmers and gradually word spread, and huge crowds would turn up for what they considered their share of Tiao's attention. Some people were gentle and undemanding but others would abuse this unique situation by trying to grab at him, climb on his back, hitting him with sticks, dragging him onto the beach for photos, or trying to tie things to his flippers. Not surprising, Tiao eventually began to fight back when his life was put in danger. In December, he butted two men who were abusing him. One suffered a broken rib and the other later died from internal injuries. It was found that they had been putting a popsicle stick down his blowhole, blocking his only airhole for breathing. In effect they were severely endangering his life, and its quite reasonable to assume that a wild animal would fight for its life.Immediately, the local press ran headlines "Killer dolphin on the loose" and people demanded he be removed or killed. A few more people abused Tiao and again he had to defend himself, though some tales may have just been people seeking fame and glory from their made up stories of the "killer" dolphin. Thankfully, caring individuals formed an education campaign on the beach and watched over further interactions to try and ensure no further mistreatment or harm occurred. This is the only known case of a dolphin killing a human, and his actions were clearly in self defence.


Pita in Belize"Pita". Photo of Pita by Barbara Bilgre (C).

A lone female bottlenose dolphin 'Pita' has made her home in the waters surrounding Northern Two Cay, Lighthouse Reef Atoll, in Belize. After about 4 years, she began to allow interaction, playing with divers in the area. Sadly, as in Tiao's case, reports say she was occasionally mistreated by overzealous people and so she would sometimes butt people. However many people have enjoyed meeting this special dolphin over the years and its hoped her trust in humans is returned with only kindness and protection.

To Page 4: More pictures and stories of wild solitary dolphins and links to other related web pages

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Copyright Details

Copyright (C) 2000 S.Kirby. You may download my own dolphin photos for your own desktop,print them out to view,or use them in school projects. Sorry,you may NOT use any of the photos commercially, or on another web page. Sally Kirby.