Manta ray ‘asks' divers to remove hooks embedded under eye

Image 1 of 3

A manta ray surprised a group of divers in Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef on May 24 by floating alongside them and seeming to request that they remove three fish hooks embedded under her eye.

Jake Wilton, an underwater photographer from Ningaloo Marine Interactions, was swimming with marine biologist and television broadcaster Monty Hall in Ningaloo Reef when the manta ray – nicknamed Freckles by local divers – swam by.

“I’m often guiding snorkelers in the area and it’s as if she recognized me and was trusting me to help her," Wilton reportedly said. "She got closer and closer and then started unfurling to present the eye to me. I knew we had to get the hooks out of her eye or she would have been in big trouble.”

According to Hall, the manta “absolutely understood” what was occurring and intentionally sought help from Wilton.

Manta rays, according to Oceana, possess highly developed brains geared toward problem solving and communication.

Ecologist Josh Stewart of the Manta Trust conservation group said the fish “will go out of their way to come interact” and are “much more like a mammal” than a typical fish.