Dolphins 'desperate for humans to come back' keep bringing gifts to shore

Dolphins in Australia have been ‘missing human interaction’ so much that they have been bringing gifts ashore for those who do visit them, a Queensland cafe which feeds the pod has claimed.

One male humpback dolphin, called Mystique, has been bringing ashore an increasingly generous selection of items amid the coronavirus lockdown, local media reported.

Mystique, 29, now brings volunteers at Barnacles Café and Dolphin Feeding centre in Tin Can Bay a daily selection of gifts, including barnacled bottles, shells, wood, coral and other items from the sea bed. He had previously been know to occasionally bring ‘presents’ ashore and was never trained to do so. 

But in a Facebook post, the cafe on the Cooloola Coast explained: ‘The pod has been bringing us regular gifts, showing us how much they’re missing the public interaction and attention. Since the restrictions have eased we have been able to reopen the dolphin feeding & cafe. 

‘Put a smile on someone’s face and come spend some time and feed these beautiful creatures, they are definitely missing you all.’

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Others have suggested that the behaviour is not necessarily a result of ‘missing’ humans, but could be an attempt to get more food.

Volunteer Lyn McPherson, who feeds the dolphins, told ABC: ‘(He) brings in objects on his rostrum, or beak, and then he carefully presents them to us.

‘What we have to do is give him a fish in return… We haven’t trained him, but he has trained us to do this. We swear he has a collection waiting to bring to us.’

The Covid-19 restrictions meant that visitors have been unable to mix with the dolphins for weeks.

Volunteers say Mystique is the only one of the seven-dolphin pod to give the gifts and is thought to have first appeared in the area in 1991 with his Mum. He has distinctive marking from fights with other dolphins and a bull shark attack.

Barry McGovern, an expert in dolphin behaviour, suggested it was possible the dolphins were giving gifts because they missed humans, but unlikely.

He told 7 News: ‘Nothing surprises me with dolphins and their behaviour anymore.

‘They do everything – they use tools, they have culture, they have something similar to names in signature whistles.

‘In all likelihood, they probably don’t miss humans per se. They probably miss a free meal and the routine.’

Others speculated online that the creatures might be telling humans to clean up the ocean, while Mr McGovern added it could be a ‘play-like behaviour’ or out of boredom.

The centre partially reopened on Saturday, May 16. 

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