It is a true-life story about a unique and special friendship between a wild dolphin known as JoJo and his human companion Dean Bernal.
Dean and JoJo first met in 1981 during Dean’s first visit to the Turks and Caicos Islands in the British West Indies. There are only eight dolphins in the world that are known to seek out the company of humans and JoJo is the most famous of them. Because of their unique interest in spending time with humans they are known as lone, sociable, or ambassador dolphins. Dean and JoJo’s relationship is the longest lived human-dolphin relationship in recorded history.
JoJo is a male Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin, these species grow to eight feet long, weigh about 250 pounds, and are thought to live to forty to fifty years.
Dean and JoJo have played together and explored JoJo’s underwater world on a daily basis for decades. An avid ocean swimmer, Dean would swim out to JoJo’s favorite reef and they would spend time together confronting sharks and exploring caves.
About eleven years ago, Bernal was swimming toward his and JoJo’s meeting spot at Sunshine Reef, about two miles from shore. Bernal had a documentary film crew trailing him.
Suddenly, a hammerhead shark appeared, ready to attack Bernal. But JoJo, sensing the danger, rammed the shark nose-first, sending the would-be assailant to the ocean floor.
The attack, which is captured on film, is a testament to Bernal and JoJo’s lasting friendship. It is also a rare example of a wild animal protecting a human, and gives even more substance to the theory that dolphins called the smartest animal in the world have real emotions.
“I owe my life to JoJo now,” Bernal says.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.
After Dean Bernal presented his book “JoJo und ich” (JoJo and I) in the Munich Sealife Center, Hollywood has made him as many as 50 to 60 offers for his story about him and JoJo, said 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.
From then on their friendship deepened. They experienced adventure, fear, and humor as JoJo taught Dean about his world, its beauty and its dangers. In turn Dean taught JoJo about our world and its many dangers. JoJo is Dean’s closest companion.