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A wild manta ray has been filmed letting a snorkeller remove three hooks from her eye.
Touching footage appears to show the manta asking for help, and remaining totally still while as if she knows what is going on.
The three-metre wide ray, nicknamed Freckles locally, was filmed on Ningaloo Reef in western Australia.
When Jack Wilton saw the hooks under her right eye, he decided he had to try and help.
The underwater photographer took a dozen dives down to five metres to remove them with a pair of pliers, which could prevent her developing an infection and potentially going blind.
Mr Wilton, 28, said he thinks the ray recognised him because he regularly guides snorkellers in the area.
‘She had to unroll her lobe to show me where the hooks were embedded,’ Mr Wilton told the Australian. ‘She knew exactly what was going on. She had to show me, give me access. It’s incredible for an animal to work that out so quickly.’
He said after he had removed the hooks he ‘went down again, just to say goodbye and she actually stopped and just waited there,” he said. ‘For the wildlife to completely embrace you, that’s very special. I bawled my eyes out afterwards — that says it all.’
Monty Halls, a marine biologist who was with him at the time on May 24, said: ‘The interesting thing is that, again and again, she kept on returning to Jake,’ Mr Halls said. ‘I’m sure that manta knew that he was trying to get the hooks out.’
He said he was reminded of children at the dentist, as the ray would stay still until the last second the pliers came close and then flinch.
Manta rays are harmless to humans and don’t have an external spike like stingrays.
They can grow up to seven metres wide and live up to 50 years.
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