Tião was a well-known solitary female Bottlenose Dolphin that was first spotted in the town of São Sebastião in Brazil around 1994 and frequently allowed humans to interact with her. The dolphin became infamous for killing a swimmer and injuring many others, which later earned her the nickname killer dolphin.
The dolphin first started to receive public attention in March 1994, when she started to visit the ferry pier almost daily, frequently following boats. The locals named her Tião, which is a common nickname for the Portuguese male given name Sebastião. The name is a reference to the town in which she was first spotted, but is not in conformity with the dolphin's gender (Sebastião being the Portuguese equivalent of "Sebastian," and many words ending in "-ão" being masculine, while feminine words often end in "-ã"). After several months, the animal moved north to a local beach, where she frequently got close to bathers and interacted with them. Tião quickly became very popular and on occasion over thirty people would be in the water with the dolphin at the same time, sometimes trying to grab hold of her pectoral and dorsal fins to have her drag them through the water. Harassment of the dolphin started to take ever more serious forms, from people attempting to restrain the dolphin to have their picture taken with her to trying to stick an icecream cone in her blowhole and attempting to pour beer into her mouth.
Tião started to resist the harassment and by November 1994, 28 people had been taken to hospital. When in December 1994 two male swimmers, Wilson Reis Pedroso and João Paulo Moreira, were harassing and possibly attempting to restrain Tião, in a beach of Caraguatatuba, the dolphin broke the ribs of Wilson and killed João, who was later found to be drunk. After this incident, the dolphin briefly left but returned to the beach in January 1995. In order to prevent retaliation, a public education campaign was set up. Tião remained at the town for a few more months but finally left for good during the summer of that year, most likely having returned to her own kind, though some still speculate she may have been killed out of revenge.
- Marcos Santos (1998), Learning to live with a sociable dolphin, article retrieved October 26, 2006.
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- Reuters (1994), Female-friendly dolphin kills male swimmer in Brazil, article retrieved October 26, 2006.
- Samuels, Amy; Lars Bejder; Rochelle Constantine; Sonja Heinrich (2003). "Swimming with wild cetaceans, with a special focus on the Southern Hemisphere" (PDF). In Nicholas Gales, Mark Hindell and Roger Kirkwood (eds.). Marine Mammals: Fisheries, Tourism and Management Issues. CSIRO Publishing. pp. 277–303. ISBN 0-643-06953-4. Retrieved 2006-10-26.