France West Coast Authorities Ban Swimming After Frisky Dolphin Terrorised Tourists And Locals

France West Coast Authorities Ban Swimming After Frisky Dolphin Terrorised Tourists And Locals

Authorities in a Brittany coastal village have banned visitors entering the sea after a frisky dolphin terrorised tourists and locals.

Roger Lars, the Mayor of Landevennec, says there must be no swimming or other water-based activities in waters nearby when it was known the over-friendly mammal was present.

Swimmers have also been prohibited from approaching within 50m of the animal.

The 10ft-long bottlenose dolphin, nicknamed Zafar, has been a regular attraction for beachgoers in Brest on the west coast of France for some time.

He recently moved south, towards the small commune of Landevennec.

For months he was considered friendly and non-aggressive, approaching children in sailing boats and allowing tourists to gently hold his dorsal fin and swim with him.

But authorities grew concerned a few weeks ago when Zafar began to rub himself against swimmers and boats, in apparent attempts to become more intimate.

A swimmer had to be rescued by coast guards last month after the dolphin refused to allow her to return to dry land.

In a separate encounter the lonely dolphin dangerously leapt over a kayaker's head.

The mayor was finally forced to act last week when Zafar appeared to throw a young bather into the air with his nose.

Sami Hassani, a specialist in marine mammals at the Oceanopolis sea park in Brest, said that while friendly in nature, the size and strength of bottlenose dolphins means they could accidentally cause serious injuries with their tail fins.

Local news service Ouest Frace has reported that the ban has now lapsed because the dolphin is believed to have left the waters.

Its website adds that the decree will come back into force if Zafar returns.

The ban did not go unopposed when it was first enforced.

Breton lawyer Erwan Le Cornec announced he plans to challenge the rule, accusing Mr Lars of overstepping his authority and endangering the "rightly positive approach that people have towards dolphins".

Mr Le Cornec told French press agency AFP: "How many accidents involving a dolphin and a human have occurred in the region of Finistere since the two species have lived side-by-side? None."

Mr Lars said that he issued the decree to ensure the safety of the people and cited a 2006 letter from the Finistere Prefecture, advising all swimming with errant dolphins be banned, to support his case.

By Rob Coniam, news reporter

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