In an incredible underwater encounter, a manta ray was caught on film repeatedly asking divers for help. The manta ray, named Freckles, had several large fishhooks stuck near her eye. Footage shows Freckles, who is thought to be about 30 years old — senior for a manta ray — approaching divers off the Ningaloo Coast in Western Australia and showing them she needed aid.
The divers had been swimming near Freckles when they noticed she was behaving in an unusual way.
“After a few minutes we noticed that it had some fish hooks buried beneath (its) right eye, and was repeatedly presenting itself to our guide Jake,” photographer and marine biologist Monty Halls wrote of the encounter in a Facebook post.
“This wasn’t my imagination, again and again it came back, turned over, and paused in the water, and — plainly — was looking to us to be helped,” Halls added.
“Jake got some pliers, and — made several attempts, with the manta returning each time to allow him another go (it was obviously painful for it). Finally, he managed it, and the manta settled quietly on the bottom and stayed with us for a wee while.”
“It’s very rare for an animal to turn and come back over to you and present themselves. So I knew as soon as she started to interact with us, it was something very special.”
Manta rays can weight up to 5300 pounds and their wingspans can grow up to 29 feet long. These gentle giants get along well with humans and are not aggressive. They are playful and can even recognize themselves in a mirror. Manta rays are currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The most significant threat to their safety is commercial fishing. Unregulated tourism can also pose a threat.
Since the incident, which took place in May, Jake has seen Freckles and reports she is doing well.