An incident occurred recently by a freediving group exploring Ningaloo Reef off Australia’s north west coast. A giant manta ray, locally known as Freckles approached one of the divers, Jake Wilton who’s a snorkelling guide to help remove fish hooks from her right eye.
Wilton, who works in the area for Ningaloo Marine Interactions, a tourist company said “I’m often guiding snorkelers in the area and it’s as if she recognised me and was trusting me to help her. 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.”
Mantas are said to be highly intelligent creatures and easily friendly, even with humans. Due to this, there are many tourist sites where the creatures live such as in the Bahamas, Spain and the Fiji Islands. It is seen that even a dangerous animal such as a lion can be friendly and loyal to a human if treated with love so this is an “incredible behaviour” as commented by Wilton.
Tourists can easily benefit from this wonderful interaction as this knowledge can help in creating awareness of animal conservation. However, unregulated tourism can also disrupt the ecological relationships underwater. Therefore, animal tourism has to be planned and regulated.
After Wilton gently pulled out the hooks, he again went back down to say goodbye to the manta who waited for him.
Garima Nabh is the founder of New Age Magazine.