On May 14, the American dolphin conservationist, Dean Bernal, presented his new book "JoJo und ich" (JoJo and I) in the Munich Sealife Center. The book (currently only available in German), is about the deep and exceptional bond between him and a bottlenose dolphin.
In an interview Dean told GRD more about this extraordinary friendship and his mission.
Hollywood has made him as many as 50 to 60 offers for his story about him and JoJo, says Dean. But unlike in the movies, the dream factory means tough business in real life. They don’t cherish Dean’s idea that part of the movie’s profit should be donated to non-profit conservation or animal welfare organizations. "This is Hollywood", says Dean, without any rancor. While radiating buddha-like calm and modesty, his looks are those of a typical "sonny boy", tanned, and always smiling with sparkling white teeth.
No wonder, Dean is from California. Growing up at the ocean, swimming, surfing, and diving has been a vital part of his life ever since. As a young man he left for the Turks and Caicos islands. And on this archipelago, which is technically located in the Atlantic Ocean rather than in the Caribbean, he had a fateful and life-changing encounter 30 years ago.
When the young diving instructor came to British overseas territory which was still considered a traveler s insider tip back in early 1980s he soon had an encounter with three bottlenose dolphins ocean and one of them Jojo as named male juvenile has chosen him be his friend
The "problem dolphin"
JoJo had a reputation of a "dangerous" dolphin which would attack and even bite unsuspecting swimmers. However, as Dean soon realized, JoJo would merely defend himself when people harassed him. And Dean also discovered that this bay had been a home to him and about 15 to 20 other dolphins before the first holiday resorts and water skiing facilities were built and drove the dolphins away.
JoJo was the only dolphin to return regularly to the area. Maybe because he was separated from his mother in a Hurricane, just like two other juveniles with a less fortunate fate: one died from a boat strike, another one was speared by a fisherman
"I still don’t know why JoJo chose me to share his life", says Dean in his book. It is a unique friendship between a person and a dolphin. Dean thinks that it is the kind of alliance male bottlenose dolphins are known to form as juveniles and that can last a whole lifetime. Being an excellent swimmer and diver has enabled Dean to spend hours on end together with his friend in his realm.
Expulsion from paradise
The story about this unusual friendship quickly spread. An ever increasing number of people came to see this 2.50 m big dolphin for themselves. And this is when Dean’s tough battle against the commercial interests of government members and the tourist industry began who considered JoJo as a potential money making machine.
The years to follow were hard for the animal activist who also had to fight against a corrupt government which did not hesitate to make death threats. He was finally expulsed from the Caribbean paradise as a person non-grata. However, in the end Dean claimed victory: JoJo has been declared a National Treasure and a major part of his habitat has been put under protection.
Thanks to a new government, Dean is free to visit the Turks and Caicos islands again. Every two months he flies from his present home in Hawaii over to the other ocean – that’s the longest he can go without seeing his friend…
JoJo has changed Dean’s life. The unusual friendship has allowed him to gain insights into the world of dolphins which stunned even scientists.
His commitment to JoJo’s welfare developed into commitment for marine mammals around the world and led him to found his "Marine Wildlife Foundation".
Dean travels around the world to show that dolphins are sentient beings able to express anger, jealousy, and joy in their own ways, who have different characters just like us, and who deserve to be treated with respect and to have their habitats protected from human interference.