A humpback dolphin has developed an adorable habit of bringing visitors treasures from the bottom of the ocean.
Mystique, a 29-year-old male dolphin, has become a firm favourite at the Barnacles Café and Dolphin Feeding centre on Queensland’s Cooloola Coast.
Eager visitors flock to see Mystique’s impressive collection of gifts retrieved from under the sea, including shells, coral and antique bottles.
Staff say they are convinced he has a collection stashed away, bringing up to 10 items back to shore in a single day, one after the other.
Volunteer feeder Lyn McPherson told ABC that Mystique developed his generous habit without any training from staff, but they now reward him with a tasty fish treat for his efforts.
‘He gets under it [and] if he drops it too far out, or we say “come on, that’s not good enough”, then he gets underneath it and brings it to us,’ she said.
‘We swear he has a collection waiting to bring to us.’
Mystique is one seven dolphins in his pod but is the only one to hunt for presents, though he is often accompanied by another male dolphin trying his luck for treats.
Some of Mystique’s deep-sea finds include timber, shells and wood, which he masterfully balances on his beak.
Staff say Mystique’s treasure hunting behaviour was more frequent during the coronavirus pandemic after the centre was shuttered amid lockdown closures.
The business reopened on May 16, meaning its 200 daily visitors can now again witness the treasures Mystique has to offer.
A video from the Tin Can Bay centre shows excited children hand feeding the dolphins, who gently swim towards children before delicately accepting the fish.
Staff say the dolphins ‘come here for the interaction with the people – not for the food’.
The centre was founded back in the early 1950s after an injured dolphin beached itself on the shore.
Locals saved the dolphin’s life by helping to feed him and restore his strength.
When he was well enough to fish for himself he returned to the bay.
They thought that was the last they would see him, but the grateful dolphin returned with a host of other dolphins – including both Mystique and his mother in 1991 – and have continued to visit ever since.
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