A wild dolphin spotted in shallow waters at a Japanese beach has been accused of biting swimmers.
The dolphin injured at least six people over the weekend at Koshino beach in the western prefecture of Fukui, officials said Monday. In one case, swimmers were bitten after trying to take a photo with the animal. Local media reported a third grader bled after getting munched on her left ankle.
Though injuries have been mild, the alarmed staff at Koshino beach on Wednesday set up a machine that emits ultrasonic frequencies—which deters dolphins from coming close. A similar one was installed just a couple of weeks earlier at a nearby beach, which also had dolphin sightings.
The incidents have perplexed city officials and marine specialists.
Dolphins are not known to be aggressive creatures and it’s rare for them to attack people unprovoked. Beachgoers have seen dolphins swimming near Koshino beach before it officially opened on July 9, “but it’s the first time this year that a dolphin came into shallow water,” Masaki Yasui, a tourism promotion department official in Fukui city, told VICE World News.
Yasui isn’t sure where the mammal came from. But he recalled how just three months before, a local news station in Fukui reported the sighting of a dolphin that used to swim in different waters. “They think it swam from neighboring Ishikawa prefecture, but we have no way of knowing if it’s the same one,” he said. Yasui said the city hadn’t received dolphin-related complaints since Monday.
Toshihisa Matsudo, the deputy director at Shinagawa Aquarium in Tokyo, told VICE World News it was probable that the wild dolphin only started biting once swimmers started playing with it, which is an “outrageous” thing for beachgoers to do, he said.
“Wild dolphins won’t deliberately attack you, but they can weigh more than 200 kilograms—even if they’re playing, because we humans are much lighter and weaker, they could hurt us,” he said.
“If there’s a wild lion roaming about Tokyo, would you get close to it to take a photo?” he said.
Matsui said that dolphins often use their mouth or snout to interact. If dolphins were really keen on inflicting pain—like if they felt their child was in danger— they’d smack someone with their tail or swim at them with full force, Matsui said.