Japanese swimmers warned to avoid dolphins after series of attacks | Japan

Beachgoers in Japan are being urged to stay away from dolphins following a series of attacks believed to have involved just one animal and left at least six people slightly injured.

The cetacean – believed to be an adult Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin – has bitten multiple swimmers at three beaches in Fukui Prefecture on the Sea of ​​Japan coast since late July.

Most of the incidents occurred within 10 meters of shore, the Mainichi Shimbun said – a sign that dolphins in the area have become accustomed to encountering humans in shallow water.

The newspaper said officials installed an underwater device that emits ultrasonic waves to try to deter the animals, but added that two attacks occurred after the equipment was put in place.

In the most serious case, a swimmer needed 14 stitches after being bitten on the hand on Koshino Beach, a popular destination for sun-seekers.

In response, local police began patrolling the beaches and handing out leaflets alerting people to the potential threat and warning them to keep their distance until the beach was closed to bathers at the end of the month.

Although dolphin attacks are extremely rare, they are not unheard of, especially if the animals feel threatened.

“There are certain parts of the body where dolphins don’t like to be touched, such as the tip of their nose and their dorsal fin,” Masaki Yasui, an official with the tourism promotion department, told Agence France-Presse. , adding that videos posted on social media appeared to show swimmers trying to touch Fukui’s dolphin.

“We encourage visitors to watch the dolphin from afar if they come across it.”

Experts at an aquarium in Fukui said descriptions of the attacker’s appearance led them to believe the attacks were the work of a single dolphin who was first spotted in the area in april.

Victims include two men in their 40s – who both received hospital treatment for minor injuries sustained the same day at Koshino Beach – and a man in his 60s who was swimming less than four meters from shore at Koshino Beach. Takasu when he was bitten. on his right arm.

“I had heard about the dolphin on the news and was going to get out of the water immediately if I saw him, but the moment I noticed him he was right next to me,” he said. at Mainichi.

The man said he tried to open the dolphin’s mouth, but he refused to let go of his arm and appeared to try to force himself on him, almost pushing him underwater. “I panicked, but was saved when someone nearby chased it away,” he said.

A local cafe owner said dolphins have sometimes pushed swimmers in the past, but recent incidents have escalated “to the point where they’re rushing at them”.