Ningaloo Reef: Manta Ray With Fish Hooks ‘Buried’ Under Eye Approaches Divers, Gets Help

   07.17.19

In this remarkable video, a manta ray at Australia’s Ningaloo Reef appears to repeatedly ask a diver for help removing three fish hooks buried under its eye.

As the “hum dinger” of a story goes, Jack Whilton, a deep sea photographer and guide, was diving with a group at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia when the manta ray approached. Apparently, it presented itself to Whilton multiple times, and that’s when the other divers in the party noticed fishing hooks caught underneath the animal’s eye.

The amazing moment was filmed back in May, but went viral in July after a marketing company shared video of the encounter for Western Australia Tourism.

“You could see she was trusting us because she was unrolling and showing us the hooks,” Whilton says in the video.

That’s when Whilton returned to the surface and grabbed some pliers, fellow diver Monty Halls wrote in his Facebook post.

“Jake went down again and again and again,” Halls said in the video, “and the animal didn’t move away because I think the manta knew that he was trying to get the hooks out.”

After several dives, Whilton was finally able to pry the last fish hook free. He then took one final dive down to the manta to say goodbye. Halls mentioned that it swam down to the bottom and hung around “for a wee while” and then swam away.

“It was an extraordinary half hour or so,” Halls wrote, “and such a clear illustration that these animals have intelligence, trust, and a strong association with folks who treat them with respect.”

Manta rays have “giant brains” making these animals exceptional at learning, problem-solving and communicating, according to Oceana.

“Here’s the video of that manta encounter off Ningaloo. Right up there with anything I’ve ever seen underwater – for all the negativity around our interactions with the marine environment, it was nice to see a group of people – and a tourist operator – get it exactly right.”

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