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Injured manta ray begs Aussie snorkeller for help to remove snagged fishing hooks

Toni Hetherington, July 14, 2019 6:45PM Kids News

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Freckles stays near the group as she appears to beg for help to get the fish hooks removed from near her eye. Picture: Facebook media_cameraFreckles stays near the group as she appears to beg for help to get the fish hooks removed from near her eye. Picture: Facebook

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A giant manta ray named Freckles has called on an Australian snorkeller for help after fishing hooks became caught under her eye.

Freckles is famous for swimming in the shallow* lagoons of Ningaloo Reef, a stretch of the Indian Ocean off Western Australia known for its incredible marine life.

Australian wildlife guide Jake Wilton had seen 30-year-old Freckles many times while snorkelling with groups and when the injured manta ray needed help, she seemed to recognise Mr Wilton and called on him to assist her.

When the 3m ray rolled over and remained still, Mr Wilton was able to spot the problem — three fishing hooks snagged* beneath her right eye.

“I’m often guiding snorkellers in the area and it’s as if she recognised me and was trusting me to help her,” Mr Wilton, 28, told The Times of London.

Freckles would ‘flinch away’ as the pliers got close, but kept returning to Jake, as he persevered with trying to remove the fish hooks. Picture: Facebook media_cameraFreckles would ‘flinch away’ as the pliers got close, but kept returning to Jake, as he persevered with trying to remove the fish hooks. Picture: Facebook

Mr Wilton spent a short time swimming beside Freckles before trying to get a closer look at her injury. The ray unfurled* her lobes, two horn-like lumps on the side of her head. It was only then that he could see the three hooks.

“She had to unroll her lobe to show me where the hooks were embedded,” Mr Wilton told The Times. “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.”

VIDEO: Manta ray seen from beneath the water.

Manta ray seems to fly underwater

Rays, which have the largest brains of any fish and are believed to have high social intelligence, rely on their vision. Concerned that Freckles’s injury would become infected and blind her, Mr Wilton set about trying to remove the hooks with a pair of pliers.

It took him more than 12 attempts as Freckles would flinch* and pull away.

Jake Wilton resurfaces with the fish hooks her removed from Freckles. Picture: Facebook media_cameraJake Wilton resurfaces with the fish hooks her removed from Freckles. Picture: Facebook

“The interesting thing is that, again and again, she kept on returning to Jake,” said Monty Halls, a British marine biologist* who was with the diving party, said..

“I’m sure that manta knew that he was trying to get the hooks out.”

To his relief Mr Wilton finally managed to remove them.

“I went down again, just to say goodbye and she actually stopped and just waited there,” Mr Wilton said. “For the wildlife to completely embrace you, that’s very special. I bawled* my eyes out afterwards — that says it all.”


FACTS ABOUT MANTA RAYS

  • With a wing span of up to 7m, the manta ray is the world’s largest ray.
  • Despite their size, these huge marine animals are harmless
  • They feed on tiny plankton.
  • They have short tails and do not have a stinging barb.
  • Manta rays are known to frequent both Australia’s eastern and western coasts.
  • With the largest brain to body size ratio of any living fish, manta rays are very inquisitive and popular among divers.
  • The giant manta ray, a peaceful cousin of the shark, is listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  • Manta rays are one of the few species that seem to recognise themselves in a mirror.

GLOSSARY

  • shallow: not deep
  • snagged: caught
  • unfurled: spread out after being rolled up
  • flinch: a quick movement made out of fear, pain or surprise
  • marine biologist: a person that studies, or works with a salt water organism or organisms
  • bawled: cried

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. The manta ray was spotted on which reef?
  2. How old is Freckles?
  3. What are manta ray lobes?
  4. What tool was used to remove the fishing hooks?
  5. How big is Freckles in metres?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Ordering the story
Reorder the following six sentences so that the summary of this news event makes sense.

  • Freckles unfurled her lobes, showing three hooks embedded below her right eye.
  • Jake Wilton was leading a group of snorkelers on the Ningaloo Reef.
  • Mr Wilton saw Freckles again two weeks after he had helped her and she appeared to recognise him once again.
  • After many attempts, Mr Wilton was able to remove the hooks using a pair of pliers.
  • A 3m manta ray known as “Freckles” approached the group, seemingly recognising Mr Wilton.
  • Mr Wilton returned to Freckles, who was waiting, to say goodbye.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

2. Extension
Replace the bold words in the first activity above with a different word (or words) that mean the same thing.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

VCOP ACTIVITY
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many pieces of punctuation as you can find in green. Discuss how these are being used, where and how often. What level of the punctuation pyramid is the journalist using in this article?


HAVE YOUR SAY: Have you ever had to help an injured animal? What did you do to assist it?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will show until approved by editors.

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