Fungie the dolphin, who suddenly vanished six months ago, has reportedly been spotted off the Irish coast, according to a marine wildlife group.
The much-loved solitary dolphin appeared in Dingle Bay, off the coast of County Kerry, in 1983 and since then has become one of the areas most beloved residents.
But in October last year – despite almost daily sightings for almost four decades – Fungie mysteriously vanished.
However, on Sunday footage emerged of a bottlenose dolphin interacting with boats off the Old Head of Kinsale, giving people hope that it could be Fungie.
According to ORCA Ireland, it is the second sighting of the individual solitary bottlenose dolphin off Kinsale and they say it could well be Fungie.
In a video shared by the group a playful dolphin can be seen larking around in the water in front of some boats in the area.
When Fungie vanished six months ago, people of the town of Dingle were left devastated, as were the scores of tourists who flock to the sleepy seaside town each year to see the famous dolphin.
Fungie, a bottleneck dolphin, has always loved to spend time in the company of humans and has become a vital and much-loved part of the community.
Since he first appeared 37 years ago, Fungie has been a draw for tourists from across Ireland and abroad with dolphin spotting boat trips regularly taking people out to meet the playful dolphin.
In the days following Fungie’s initial disappearance a huge search was launched using sonar scanning and scuba divers.
But this was called off after no trace of Fungie was found.
Jimmy Flannery, the founder and owner of Dingle Sea Seafari tours, knows Fungie well and has an immense bond with the dolphin.
He said: “He’s pulled me through thick and thin. I’ve spent times with him when I needed just some company, and not human company. I’ve spent it with him.
“I was only 12 years old when Fungie arrived, and I’m taking people out since I was 16 years old.
“He’s an institution. He was the mascot, he was the sentinel at the entrance to the harbour that would meet and greet every boat no matter what.”
Fungie was an adult dolphin when he first appeared in the bay and is thought to be in his early to mid-40s.
In the wild, dolphins have a life expectancy of around 50 and Dr Kevin Flannery, a marine biologist in the local area, said in November that time could simply have run out for Fungie.
However, old age is not the only possible cause for Fungie’s mysterious disappearance – the could be happier reasons.
Fungie could have left the bay because of large numbers of other dolphins in the local area.
He could also have been chasing sprat, which are dolphins favourite food, further out to sea.
And in the happiest outcome – Fungie, who has been alone ever since he arrived off the coast of Dingle, could have eloped with a partner.