Off the hook
Underwater photographer and scuba diver, Jake Wilton, could tell something was wrong. “Freckles”, the manta ray, was a familiar sight in the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. Clearly in distress, when Freckles spotted Wilton, she approached him and spread her wings. “She got closer and closer and then started unfurling to present her eye to me.” Wilton could see she had fishing hooks embedded below the eye. After a few failed attempts at removing the hooks, Mr Wilton took a final dive. “I went down for one last try and the manta stayed completely still in the water,” he says. The dive was a success and, as Wilton emerged from the ocean with the hooks in his hand, Freckles swam happily away.
Monty Hall, diving with Wilton at the time, is convinced the manta ray knew exactly what was going on. “Jake went down again and again and she just remained still for him,” says Hall. “She never moved. I'm sure that manta knew Jake was trying to get the hooks out." Had the hooks not been removed, Freckles’ eye may well have become infected, even blinded. Wilton has since returned to the reef to check up on Freckles’ wellbeing and reported to the BBC that the 30-year-old is “doing well”. Among the most intelligent creatures in the ocean, manta rays obtain a self-awareness that allows them to recognise other rays. As a regular on the reef, Wilton believes he may too have looked familiar to Freckles: “It's as if she recognised me and was trusting me to help her.”
ABOVE Jake Wilton (left)