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The loving male dolphin, Fungie, first appeared in 1983 in Dingle Bay off the coast of County Kerry, West Ireland.

Fungie has since become a local figure in the community and one of the most beloved residents. For the past 37 years, he has kept fishermen, tourists and locals company in the waves off the coast of West Ireland.

He loved seeking out human company, and enjoyed playing with swimmers, surfers, divers and kayakers when they took to the sea.

Tourists from across Ireland and abroad have heard of the friendly dolphin, and had come from all around to enjoy the spotting boat trips which take people out to meet the playful dolphin.

However, sad news came only weeks ago after Fungie had not been seen for a few days. The news turned to heartbreak as no sign of the friendly dolphin has been seen since.

After Fungie disappeared, the concerned citizens initiated a huge search using sonar scanning and scuba divers to try and find their friend.

Jimmy Flannery, the founder and owner of Dingle Sea Seafari tours, said that the searchers are "drained – mentally and physically", and added that, "People have to realise and respect this is a friend that's gone missing. It’s not an object".

Jimmy had grown to form a very strong bond with Fungie over the years. "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."

Another resident, Nuala Moore, who is also an extreme swimmer, regularly swam with Fungie when she went on her regular sea swims. Nuala added that, "We're all feeling really sad. We've been sharing this body of water for 30 years. I grew up swimming with him."

Everyone is wondering what has happened to the beloved Fungie. When Fungie first arrived 37 years ago, he was already an adult dolphin in his early to mid-40s.

Flannery, a marine biologist, confirmed that dolphins has a life expectancy of around 50, and added that time could simply have run out for Fungie.

"I would say that at this stage, because he hasn't returned, we're looking at the age profile. Basically what happens to old dolphins at that stage is that they're unable to catch their own food and with his age profile, he has possibly died of starvation."

However, there are other factors which could be the cause for Fungie's mysterious disappearance.

One of the other reasons could be that the beloved Fungie could have left the bay as he has met a large numbers of other dolphins in the local area, and joined them.

He could also have been chasing sprat, which are dolphins favourite food, which is further out to sea.

Fungie, who has been alone for some time, could have found a mate, however it's also possible the loveable dolphin has died of starvation.

Dr Flannery added that "A wild animal that has to catch his own fish for 40 or 50 years, he would be slowing down, like we all do coming up to that age. And trying to catch fish won't be as easy, so the possibility of starvation comes into play – that he could have died of hunger or something like that."

The heartbreak goes on as the residents mourn the loss of their friend. Not only will this bring sad news to the community, it will also mean the end to the spotting tours of Fungie, which will lead to a downfall in the community’s economy. Local politicians have said, if Fungie doesn't return, they will have to appeal to the government for funding.

Councillor Breandán Fitzgerald also added that, "If you had said it to me a month or a week ago, could 2020 get any worse, I’d have probably said no. But next minute, all of a sudden, if Fungie doesn't come back it’ll be a desperate year altogether."

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