Experts appear to have confirmed a rare sighting of dolphins swimming in Venice’s famous canals, a year after similar sightings were derided as fake.
Video has emerged this week of bottlenose dolphins, believed to be an adult and child, hunting for cuttlefish this week at the entrance of Venice’s Grand Canal, near St Mark’s Square.
Very rarely do bottlenose dolphins enter the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea, but experts say the pair were likely drawn to the calmer waters due to the abundance of fish and lack of cruise ships and tourist boats in Venice during the pandemic.
“This is very unusual,” said Luca Bizzan, the head of Venice’s Natural History Museum, according to the UK’s The Times.
“They were clearly encouraged to venture this far into the city by the calm waters in Venice right now.”
“It’s the first time we see a mother and juvenile off St Mark’s Square,” Sandro Mazzariol, an expert from the University of Padua, said.
The Times reported police cordoned off the area where the dolphins were seen as they were coaxed back into the open sea.
The local coast guard issued a statement warning people not to disturb the animals should they make any future visits.
“In case of further sightings in the lagoon, we would ask everyone to exercise the greatest caution, not to disturb the cetaceans and to report their presence to the coast guard,” the statement said, according to the UK’s The Telegraph.
“The dolphins did not appear to be in difficulty and after a few minutes left the area, reappearing a little later just inside the Grand Canal.”
The dolphin sighting comes a year after similar reports of dolphins in Venice’s canals were dismissed as hoaxes.
In March 2020, as the worsening spread of COVID-19 forced Italy into lockdown, reports circulated of dolphins and other animals taking advantage of the clear, tourist-free Venetian canals.
There were similar reports of nature reclaiming tourist areas as pandemic lockdowns drove tourism to a halt.
An investigation by National Geographiclast March found the dolphins that were apparently spotted in Venice had actually been filmed at a port in Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea.
A viral photo of swans in the canals were found to have been taken in Burano, an island in the greater Venice metropolitan area, where swans were commonly seen.
“I think people really want to believe in the power of nature to recover,” psychology and environmental expert Susan Clayton from Ohio’s College of Wooster told National Geographic.
“People hope that, no matter what we’ve done, nature is powerful enough to rise above it.”