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Incredible footage shows a rare sighting of two dolphins in Venice, which were seeing swimming in the unusually-calm waters of its famous Grand Canal.
The bottlenose dolphins, a mother and her juvenile, were believed to be hunting cuttlefish when they were seen in waters off the Punta della Dogana on Monday - just a few hundred yards from popular tourist spot St Mark's Square.
In order to stop the public from getting too close, police placed a cordon around the area, while the local coastguard urged people to keep their distance.
Luca Bizzan, head of Venice's Natural History Museum, told The Times: "This is very unusual - they were clearly encouraged to venture this far into the city by the calm waters in Venice right now.
"They were probably drawn to the city by the number of cuttle fish - a lot this year - that enter the lagoon at this time to lay eggs."
The two dolphins were likely drawn into the canal because of a lack of tourists cruise ships and motorboats usually found in the area - the waters currently much calmer than usual due to the pandemic.
Sandro Mazzariol, a researcher at the University of Padua, said: "It's the first time we see a mother and juvenile off St Mark's Square."
Officials spent three hours shepherding the animals back to the open sea after they became 'disorientated' by all the commotion.
The local coastguard said the sighting was 'exceptional', but warned residents not to disturb the dolphins if they return.
A statement said: "In case of further sightings in the lagoon, we would ask everyone to exercise the greatest caution, not to disturb the cetaceans and to report their presence to the coast guard.
"The dolphins did not appear to be in difficulty and after a few minutes left the area, reappearing a little later just inside the Grand Canal."
Italy was the first country in the world to impose a national coronavirus lockdown last year.
At the time, locals in Venice shared photos and videos on social media showing just how quiet their city had become - reporting countless sightings of wildlife.
The Venice mayor's office explained that the changes weren't actually down to improved water quality, with a spokesperson telling CNN last March: "The water now looks clearer because there is less traffic on the canals, allowing the sediment to stay at the bottom.
"It's because there is less boat traffic that usually brings sediment to the top of the water's surface."
The spokesperson added: "The air, however, is less polluted since there are less vaporetti and boat traffic than usual because of the restricted movement of residents."
Featured Image Credit: CERT di Universita de Padova
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