“There has been a few incidents,” Roger Lars, mayor of Landévennec, told French radio RTL. “A woman swimming quietly was thrown by the animal. There really was a security issue.”
What animal was assaulting swimmers?
Lars was discussing the behavior of a local dolphin, Zafar. Locals to the area have been familiar with the dolphin as he has been swimming the Bay of Brest for several months. At first, he was playful and sweet, reported The Telegraph, going close to people in the water, allowing them to pet him, even letting people hold onto his dorsal fin and take a ride. But more recently, his behavior has become more sinister as he seems to be in heat. Now he approaches kayaks and boats in order to rub himself on them, as well as rubbing himself upon hapless swimmers and sunbathers in the water and on the beach. Locals and tourists alike have been approached by him, in alarm of his obvious and overt state of sexual arousal. And there have been a few instances where the dolphin has flipped people out of the water.
Zafar is a Short-Beaked Common Dolphin, a species classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as of “least concern.” These animals are known to be very boisterous and social. His behavior seems to stem from the fact that he is rutting, and at his size (nearly 10 feet long), he could potentially harm beachgoers.
While Lars does not think that the dolphin is behaving maliciously, he decided that the townspeople needed to be kept out of harm’s way while Zafar is in heat. Thus, a bylaw was quickly passed in order to protect the people. The bylaw states that “swimming and diving are banned on the village shoreline… whenever the presence of the dolphin is confirmed… Approaching within 50 metres of the dolphin is also forbidden.”
However, not all are pleased with Lars’ actions. Breton environmental lawyer, Erwan Le Cornec, plans to take legal action to overturn the new legislation.
“How many accidents have there been with a dolphin in Brittany since our two species existed? None,” Le Cornec told French local newspaper Ouest-France.
“The mayor wants to make dolphins look like almost ferocious beasts, completely unpredictable and likely to drown people. If you were to apply these rules across the board, whenever a pedestrian approaches a dog, even if it is on a leash, all the mayors in… France should issue bylaws banning pedestrians in town,” he also said in a statement.