Who remembers Donald the Dolphin? Donald was a resident of Port St Mary for a while back in the 70’s and became well known to Manx residents at the time. He was a solitary Bottlenose dolphin who chose to interact with humans and seek their company. I don’t know an awful lot about Donald as I wasn’t around at the time, maybe someone can fill me in?
You may be interested to know that Donald was what is now known as an Ambassador dolphin. These are juvenile male Bottlenose dolphins who become separated or forced out of their pod, they choose to seek out harbours where they can feed easily on fish thrown overboard by the fishermen, and being social animals, they will interact with humans for company. Sometimes they can stay in the same harbour for several years before leaving to seek out other dolphins or new homes.
There are several cases of ambassador dolphins including Fungi in Dingle, Ireland, and Clet who ventures to various harbours around the British Isles and France, he even paid us a visit a couple of years ago and was photographed in Port St Mary Harbour (must be a good place for lone dolphins!)
We are often asked if dolphins have always been in Manx waters as people only ever heard about Donald, and not of the number and diversity of species we see today. Unfortunately, there is very little historical evidence of cetaceans in Manx waters and no-one had studied them until we were founded in 2006. I would suggest it is more likely that they have always been here, just that no-one knew about them as there wasn’t any public awareness and the only people who really saw them were fishermen.
If anyone reading this has any stories about whales, dolphins or porpoises prior to 2000 we would love to hear them.
Here is a photo of Donald with Maura Mitchell who he befriended in Port St Mary. Please note that swimming with wild dolphins is now strongly frowned upon in the British Isles and should never be attempted.
See comments below for a link to a fascinating project focusing on Clet the travelling dolphin and his movements around Britain and France.