A giant manta ray with fish hooks embedded under its eye approached a diver off Western Australia and appeared to be asking him for help in removing the unwanted fishing gear.
Monty Halls of the U.K. was among a group of freedivers exploring Ningaloo Reef with Ningaloo Marine Interactions when he witnessed the encounter with guide Jake Wilton, calling it “one of the best things I’ve ever seen underwater.”
“I’m often guiding snorkelers in the area and it’s as if she recognized me and was trusting me to help her,” Wilton told The Independent via World News.
“She got closer and closer and then started unfurling to present the eye to me. I knew we had to get the hooks out or she would have been in big trouble. I went for a few dives down to see how she’d react to me being close to her.”
The manta ray remained calm with his close proximity, and Wilton said it “stayed completely still in the water,” allowing him to remove the hooks.
“That manta absolutely understood what was going on,” Halls told The Independent. “Jake went down again and again and she just remained still for him.”
The Independent reported that manta rays are believed to be one of the more intelligent creatures in the ocean, and are “generally harmless” to humans because, unlike stingrays, they don’t have an external spike.
This particular manta ray is known to locals as Freckles.
David Boyle, who lectures on marine biology at the University of Plymouth, told The Independent, “It’s pretty incredible behavior if this is what happened. It’s not uncommon for animals – generally mammals – to interact with divers, but for one in distress to seek out assistance would be novel indeed.”
Generic photo of a manta ray courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.