A lonely young dolphin is trying to make friends with humans along Australia’s east coast but swimmers are being told to shun the creature.
The wild female bottlenose was separated from her pod in 2012 and has been looking for friends around Sydney Harbour ever since.
But she seems to prefer people to her own species and has become famous for frolicking with swimmers and joining surfers in the waves.
The dolphin, who has a distinctive nick in her dorsal fin, was caught on camera by swimmers she visited at a Sydney beach on New Year's Day.
Australia’s National Parks and Wildlife Service is appealing to beachgoers to resist the playful creature’s advances.
Michael Treanor, area manager of Sydney Harbour, said large crowds swimming with it endangered both the dolphin and themselves and could ruin its chances of rejoining a pod in the wild.
He said: “Although this dolphin does seem to actively seek out human interaction, we are becoming more and more concerned about the number of people swimming with it at once, and of reports of people attempting to ride the animal, poke it and feed it.
“I cannot stress enough that this is a wild animal and if it is threatened it will act on instinct and could unintentionally hurt someone.”
Wild dolphins are unpredictable and very strong, with the potential to injure people.
The Sydney dolphin has been socialising with her own species less and less and experts believe the long-term separation from her kind has changed her behavioural patterns.
Rescuers freed it after it became trapped in closed waters at Sussex Inlet in September 2012 but the dolphin did not find another pod in the open ocean as expected.
If they decide the dolphin is putting itself or anyone at risk, it will be put into captivity.
Mr Treanor said: “What everyone wants is for the dolphin to re-join a pod and lead a long, healthy life in the wild with a pod of its own.
“No matter how well-meaning people are, humanising it further could mean that it is unable to form lasting bonds with other dolphins, which leaves the animal isolated and more vulnerable.”
Swimmers are being told to keep their distance from the animal and move away if it swims up to them.