A new study on dolphins in the Shannon Estuary may provide a "faint glimmer of hope" that Fungie is still alive and that he has simply moved from Dingle to another location.

Simon Berrow, GMIT lecturer and CEO of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, said their study found that dolphins in the Shannon Estuary, which were missing and presumed dead, had just moved to Brandon and Tralee Bay.

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, he said the project started 27 years ago in May 1993, when they wanted to know the mortality rates of dolphins in the estuary as it was important from a conservation point of view.

Looking at the data over the course of each year, Mr Berrow said as time goes on and an animal does not turn up during successive years, they had thought them to be more likely dead than missing.

However, he said in recent times they have realised that a lot of Shannon dolphins are in Brandon and Tralee Bay in north Kerry, which is outside the protected area of the Shannon Estuary.

Mr Berrow said as a result, they started doing surveys in Brandon and Tralee Bay and found that some of the dolphins, which had been missing from the estuary, were now there.

He said some of the animals that had been missing and presumed dead had actually moved, and that some of the animals they now see in Brandon, are never seen back in the Shannon Estuary.

Mr Berrow said the moving of the dolphins, which would have been well established beforehand, has "very profound conservation implications", as the Shannon Estuary is a protected site under European Law for its unique population of dolphins.

He said the study gives a "faint glimmer of hope" that Fungie has simply moved on to another location, but that only time will tell.

Mr Berrow said he personally believes however, that Fungie is dead, as he was an old animal when he met him in 1988.