The above video provides a touching glimpse into a unique and special friendship between a human and a bottlenose dolphin. Lasting two decades, it's the most enduring relationship between a dolphin and human in recorded history.
Dean Bernal, a naturalist and avid ocean swimmer, first came across JoJo, then a young dolphin, in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1981. JoJo began to follow Dean on his daily swims, and soon became Dean's closest companion.
When JoJo was at risk of being captured, Dean lobbied the government for his protection. In 1989 Dean was appointed as JoJo's official caretaker, and JoJo was declared a National Treasure of the Turks & Caicos Islands.
For twenty years, Dean and JoJo spent hours each day playing (JoJo's favourite toy was a wind-up fish, which he bounced back and forth endlessly with Dean), exploring caves and confronting sharks together. Dean would swim out to JoJo's favourite reef, but JoJo would also come looking for Dean.
Often, JoJo would find Dean on the ocean floor teaching a group of student divers. Sometimes JoJo would hover quietly behind Dean waiting for him to end the class so they could play. But other times he was less patient, and when he wanted to be, JoJo could be very creative in his methods of disruption!
On one occasion, JoJo went on a mission to capture a sea turtle. When he found one, he carried it in his mouth back to Dean's class, and released it in the middle of a group of student divers. As if the turtle had not been effective enough, on another occasion, JoJo captured a small shark and released it into the middle of Dean's class. Needless to say, JoJo was successful in getting Dean's attention!
Never one to run out of creative ideas, another of JoJo's disruptive tactics was to take hold of Dean's air supply hose and swim away with him. Dean would tell his students before a class, "If the dolphin takes me away just stay put. I'll be right back".
Perhaps the greatest test of JoJo's loyalty came when Dean was approached one day on the reef by a hammerhead shark in hunting mode. "As soon as he realised I was in danger, he rushed in to get between me and the shark," says Dean. "Then he rammed the hammerhead with his rostrum, and drove the shark right down to the ocean floor".
JoJo would not have come to Dean's defence had he not felt a strong bond with him. Though they did not share a language, there is no doubt that the friendship between Dean and JoJo was real, and very special.