Ireland has launched a frantic search and rescue operation to locate Fungie, a much-loved dolphin that usually frolicks off the coast of County Kerry.
Fungie, a solitary bottlenose, has been a resident in Dingle Harbour since 1983. He has created an entire tourism industry around himself, attracting visitors with his playful nature, and holds the Guinness World Record for oldest solitary dolphin.
But suddenly he vanished. Local fisherman say they have never gone more than a few hours without spotting him, yet he has not been sighted for over a week, despite search and rescue teams being dispatched with divers scouring the sea bed.
"We're all feeling really sad," Nuala Moore, a local swimmer, told Sky News. "We've been sharing this body of water for 30 years. I grew up swimming with him."
"There's a sound of screaming laughter when people see him, wild shouts of 'yay'," she said.
"In a world where we don't laugh that easily, anything that stops you in your tracks and forces you to appreciate nature is special. It's more than just nature."
Marine biologist Kevin Flannery, director of Oceanworld Aquarium Dingle, told the Washington Post that Fungie was last spotted playing with a group of humpback and minkie whales in the mouth of the harbour.
“They catch and scatter a lot of food, and it might have been easier to go with them. He might have then joined up with another pod of dolphins.”
Scientists estimate that Fungie is in his mid-40s. The life expectancy for dolphins in the wild is about 50 years, so locals are preparing for the possibility that Fungie has died.
Prior to his disappearance, there were about a dozen companies offering sight-seeing tours to see him, providing approximately 50 jobs to the local economy.
"He gave us 37 good years. If he has changed the mindset of people… he has done his job," said Mr Flannery.