WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Local officials have issued a swimming ban in a seaside village in Britanny, France because of a dolphin’s “sexual behavior.”
- The “sexually-frustrated” bottlenose dolphin named Zafar has been scaring tourists and locals.
- Zafar is in heat and shows aggressive behavior— rubbing himself on objects and humans to meet his biological needs.
A swimming and diving ban has been issued in a seaside village in Brittany, France because of a dolphin’s “sexual behavior” that has been scaring tourists and locals.
Zafar, the male bottlenose dolphin has been hanging around the beaches and shorelines of Plougastel-Daoulas, Logonna-Daoulas and Landevennec in the Bay of Brest for months. It amused tourists for its playfulness, even allowing people to hold on to his dorsal fin for rides.
But his behavior changed a few weeks ago.
He began rubbing himself against kayaks and canoes. One time, the 3-meter long dolphin prevented a female swimmer from returning to shore and even lifted another woman out of the water with his nose, Le Telegramme reported.
This aggressive and pushy behavior of the animal prompted Landevennec mayor Roger Lars to issue the law banning swimming in areas where Zafar is frequently seen. It also added that “approaching within 50 meters of the dolphin is also forbidden.”
“He is lonely and in heat,” said a marine expert to Quest-France, a French local news site.
According to Elizabeth Hawkins, a researcher of the Dolphin Research Australia, the aggressive antics are not unusual for a social solitary dolphin like Zafar.
He is “wanting, needing and yearning for social contact from cohorts and that need isn’t fulfilled,” Hawkins said. “Being isolated from his species, he seeks to form and reinforce bonds, often using sexual behaviors like rubbing themselves on objects and humans to meet his biological needs. They also do not have a particular time of the year to reproduce and may mate any time.”
Being very large animals, experts say they can accidentally cause injury with a flipper if they feel threatened. But hostile attacks on humans by dolphins are extremely rare.
Erwan LeCornec, a Breton lawyer who enjoys swimming with Zafar plans to take legal actions against the “excessive decree”.
He said, “This animal is not dangerous.” He claimed the mayor wants to paint Zafar as a “ferocious beast, totally unpredictable and likely to drown people.”
He believed that this will only turn people from having a positive approach to dolphins into fearing these gentle and intelligent animals and turning this fear into panic.
However, marine experts also praised the mayor for their actions in stepping in at the right time. Based on Zafar’s behavior, it might be that the dolphin has reached a “high level of habituation.”
The best thing to do, for now, is for people to stay away and not to interact with Zafar until he goes back to his natural behavior.