Dean Bernal and
The JoJo Dolphin Project
Fifteen years ago, Dean Bernal was swimming in the ocean off the Turks and Caicos Islands in the British West Indies when he "met" a young, curious male bottlenose dolphin that was known by locals as "JoJo." JoJo followed Dean on his daily swim out to the reef, getting closer each time. Over time, the two bonded in a unique human/dolphin friendship. They still swim and play together, spending hours in the colorful coral reefs among sharks, manta rays, turtles, whale sharks and other dolphins. Says Bernal, "Our relationship is a trusting friendship."
It hasnít always been fun for JoJo and Dean, however. JoJo was so curious about humans that he often approached tourists swimming, snorkeling and diving in the area. Unfortunately, people did not know how to behave around a wild animal. Some people would reach out to touch him, which was seen as aggressive behavior to JoJo, so he sometimes bit back at the offending hand. JoJo got a dangerous reputation and was soon in danger himself. Authorities were threatening to put him in captivity. Dean lead a campaign to become JoJoís official caretaker and had JoJo declared a National Treasure. Now Dean works full-time to protect, not only JoJo, but all marine life in the Turks and Caicos. His work with JoJo has become well-known and has appeared in several television and film documentaries.
Solitary dolphins like JoJo are rare. Dolphins are highly social animals, but itís their own kind with whom they most want to associate. In fact, there are only a few dolphins in the world that seek out human companions. So, why is JoJo alone? We donít know. Bernal leads The JoJo Dolphin Project to help other stranded, injured or entangled dolphins, but also works internationally to protect rare, lone dolphins and whales like JoJo.