JoJo the Dolphin

For those who grew up in love with Flipper, the story of JoJo the dolphin should bring up feelings of nostalgia and sweet eminence. Dolphins usually do not survive outside their pods very long. Dolphins are very sociable animals that need each other for comfort and security. What makes JoJo the dolphin special is his unique ability to survive and thrive outside a pod, and his insistence to socialize with humans. Not just any humans either, but this bottlenose enjoys the company of the residents of Turks and Caicos (TCI). In fact JoJo is one of only a handful of dolphins, worldwide, that interacts with humans.

Back in the early ’80s JoJo and two other dolphins would regularly swim around the coasts of TCI interacting with swimmers and divers. During this time, JoJo became swimming buddies with diving enthusiast, Dean Bernal. It was the best scenario for the both of them. For two years after first encountering JoJo, Bernal moved to TCI permanentely to study and care for JoJo who would often leave his dolphin buddies to swim with humans. This created a danger between himself and humans. In fact for the first few years of JoJo’s routine visits to the beaches of TCI, he actually gained a reputation as a nuisance and a threat. Many divers and swimmers did not know how to react to JoJo. Often times humans would make a move out of fear or ignorance causing JoJo to then react, defensively, sometimes biting or lightly ramming the individuals. Then Bernal stepped in.

Bernal swam daily at the beach, and JoJo would follow him. In time they developed a unique relationship, and soon the two became a fixture around Providenciales. When the authorities stepped in to place “dangerous” JoJo into captivity, Bernal seized the opportunity to encourage the conservation-minded government to crown JoJo a national treasure. So they did. They also named Dean Bernal JoJo’s ward, and funded him to conduct research on JoJo, other dolphins and, consequently, all marine life around TCI for the sake of their most valuable resource. Indeed, Bernal and JoJo have appeared in several films sparking other national conservations worldwide.

Interestingly, whereas most dolphins perish without pods, JoJo has thrived, and in recent years, intermittently joined some pods playing and mating. And, JoJo has extended his range from 26 miles to 260 miles. He has found new feeding grounds, habitats and migration routes. Still, it is not unusual to locate JoJo swimming along the shores of TCI as both companion and entertainer.

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