Rampaging Lone Dolphin Keeps Biting Swimmers

A dolphin has bitten two swimmers in Japan—the latest in a string of attacks by what appears to be a single dolphin.

As reported by local media Fukishimbun Online, the most recent incidents occurred on August 11, at Koshino Beach in Gamo-cho, Fukui City. The two injured swimmers, who were bitten hours apart, were taken to hospital.

Both victims were men in their 40s. The first incident occurred in the morning, with a man being bitten on both arms. Around six hours later, a second man was bitten on the fingers of his left hand.

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Stock image of a dolphin. Two men in Japan were attacked on the same day by a dolphin that is also suspected to have attacked multiple other people in the same area. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dolphins are highly intelligent animals, capable of teaching, learning, cooperation and even grief. They are usually highly social, and live in large groups called pods.

They have been known to attack humans, especially in captivity. In April 2022, a 23-year-old dolphin that had spent his entire life in captivity attempted to drown his female trainer.

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A dolphin trainer was just attacked by Flipper. Police just arrived. :( #dolphinattack #miami #seaquarium

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They are also known to bite humans, both in captivity and in the wild, and to become hostile towards humans when they get too close. In 2019, two dolphins attacked a 10-year-old British girl at a "swimming with dolphins" experience in Cancun, biting and dragging her underwater, leaving her with cuts, bruises and bite marks.

Other dolphin attacks have been reported in the same area of Japan this year, leading officials to suspect that they may all have been done by a single individual. The suspected dolphin was first spotted near shore at a different beach in April, according to The Japan Times.

It is thought that the public perception of dolphins puts both the animal and human at risk, as people treat them more like a pet than a powerful and potentially dangerous creature.

"People have this image of dolphins as cute creatures, but they are wild animals after all," Tetsuya Matsuoka, manager of the Notojima Aquarium in the nearby town of Nanao, told the newspaper The Asahi Shimbun. "You should not go near them or touch them because they have sharp teeth."

Attacks may be more common if the dolphin is made to feel unsafe or threatened, such as by being handled in a way it doesn't like.

"We understand that there are certain body parts where dolphins don't like to be touched, like the tip of its nose and its back fin," Masaki Yasui, an official from the tourism promotion department, told The Japan Times.

Humans kill a huge number of dolphins each year, mostly as bycatch in fishing nets, but also during dolphin drives. These involve herding large numbers of dolphins using boats and killing them for their meat. It is considered by many to be inhumane, and has a long been performed in Japan since the whaling days, although it currently only takes place on a large scale in Taiji. Over 22,000 dolphins and other small whales are killed in this way annually in Japan.

Following the latest attacks, the Fukui Minami police warned beachgoers not to swim when dolphins were spotted nearby, and signs have been erected on the beach urging swimmers to take care and "never touch dolphins." The exact species of dolphin involved is as yet unknown, although common species found near the waters of Japan include bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, and Risso's dolphins.

According to The Japan Times, the Fukui Municipal Government has set up a device emitting ultrasonic waves near the beach that will deter dolphins from coming near.

The headline of this article has been updated.