Lots of people have been reposting a video that they claim shows a group of dolphins happily swimming around a deserted port in the south of France as just one example of how wild animals are taking advantage of the reduction in human activity caused by the coronavirus lockdown. Turns out, this video wasn’t even filmed in France… and it’s actually pretty common to see dolphins in that port. 

Hundreds of thousands of people have watched a video showing dolphins swimming alongside a bunch of docked pleasure boats since it was posted on April 17. While most posts indicate that the video was filmed in the French region of Var, the port in question varies from post to post. Some say the dolphin was swimming near Saint-Laurent-du-Var, while others say it was definitely in Hyères. The mayor of Sanremo, a town in northwest Italy, actually thought that the dolphin had come to his port, before he realized that he was mistaken.

Turns out, the video was filmed in Turkey, not France

We ran the video through a search using InVid (check out how to use this tool by clicking this link) and pulled up older posts featuring the same video, including a bunch of posts by Turkish media on April 16. These posts say that the video was filmed in Istanbul’s Ataköy Marina on the western bank of the Bosphorus Strait.

We compared the video of the dolphins with photos of the marina that had been posted on social media. It was immediately clear that they showed the same location.

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The mooring cleat, the boat with a grey hull and the sea wall that you see in this photo also appear in the video.

"It’s not that dolphins have made a comeback, it’s just that they are easier to see than before!"

Most of the captions on this video seem to imply that the dolphins coming into the waters surrounding the port are a sign that wild animals are reappropriating spaces left void of human activity because of the lockdown meant to control the spread of covid-19.

But the fact that dolphins are swimming around the port at this time of year isn’t surprising in the least to Arda Tonay, a professor of marine biology at the University of Istanbul and vice president of the Turkish Marine Research Foundation (TUDAV) :
That video is nothing out of the ordinary! Three types of marine mammals live in the Bosphorus: porpoises, common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins, which are what you see in the video.

This is the time of the year when you are most likely to see them. Even when the boats are moving around, bottlenose dolphins often come to this marina at night or in the early morning when there are less people around. Because activity has decreased considerably, they’ve started coming during the day, as well.

However, it’s wrong to say that dolphins are coming into the Bosphorus or coming closer to the marina than ever because of the pandemic. Dolphins have always been there, it’s just easier to see them during the day these days.

This video, which was posted on April 11, shows dolphins swimming in the Bosphorus. It was filmed from the east bank of the river.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been lots of fake news stories about how animals are reappropriating human spaces left empty because of lockdowns, according to this article by National Geographic. Experts interviewed by the publication pointed out that, while this kind of fake news might at first seem positive, it can actually harm conservation efforts by making people feel like they’ve been deceived.
Article by Pierre Hamdi (@PierreHamdi)