A swimmer was injured by a dolphin in Co Clare last night in the fourth such incident involving the same animal in a month.
Despite repeated warnings from the authorities, particularly in recent weeks, people continue to swim off Doolin pier with the female bottlenose dolphin, which is known as ‘Dusty’.
In the most recent incident, a woman was charged as she left the water after a swim at about 10pm. The dolphin is believed to have struck the woman in the kidney area with its nose, knocking her over and leaving her winded.
The woman was treated at the scene by Coast Guard. The woman was taken by ambulance to the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick for treatment. She was left badly bruised and shocked by the incident.
The dolphin, thought to be about 14 years old, first appeared at Doolin pier in 2011 but had been in the Fanore area of north Clare for some years before that. The three-metre long mammal has been responsible for injuring a number of people over the past two years, with several of those being hospitalised with significant injuries.
On July 19th, a 40-year-old woman was struck in the abdomen by the dolphin while swimming near the pier.
The local lifeguards now fly the red danger flag any time the dolphin enters the area, while the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) erected warning posters at Doolin pier this month.
"It is our policy to discourage people swimming with whales and dolphins in Ireland, " IWDG coordinator Dr Simon Berrow said. "We've drafted a poster recommending people do not swim with Dusty, but if they must, then they should respect her as a wild dolphin and not grab, lunge or chase after her. If she shows agressive behaviour or is boisterous they should leave the water."
The dolphin appears to have become territorial about the slipway and steps at Doolin. Authorities say people should only watched the dolphin from the pier and the rocks and should not enter the water.
Co Clare's water safety development officer Liam Griffin said people continue to ignore repeated warnings about swimming with the dolphin. "You can never be sure how the dolphin will react," he said. "It's best to stay away from her because people have been injured in the past."