Some animals are more clever than we give them credit for. In fact, they may try to win our love or get a reward by doing things to please us – like by bringing us gifts. If a dog brings a ball, they may get rewarded with a small treat or a game of fetch. And one dolphin seemed to learn that this trick works for him as well, but instead of gathering balls, he collects treasures from the bottom of the ocean.
Mystique is a humpback dolphin who lives in Tin Can Bay off the coast of Queensland, Australia and he has a brilliant system in place for getting free food and treats. You see, 29-year-old Mystique lives near the Barnacles Cafe and Dolphin Feeding Center where visitors can feed the local dolphins. Rather than just showing up and getting a snack, Mystique decided to work for his food by bringing offerings from the bottom of the ocean in exchange for a treat.
He’s known to bring old bottles, shells, coral, and anything else he can find. As one person commented, “He has a very discerning eye for objects too.”
Unfortunately, at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in Australia, the cafe was having fewer and fewer visitors. As a result, Mystique was receiving fewer and fewer fish during his visits. Because of this, he really pushed himself to deliver even more gifts than usual – trying his gift offering exchange on anyone he can possibly find.
Lyn McPherson, a volunteer at the cafe and feeding center, shared with ABC that the dolphin was known to practice his “giving behavior” before the start of the pandemic. However, since things started to lockdown and tourists started to disperse, his gift giving antics at the Barnacles Cafe & Dolphin Feeding have only increased.
As she shared with ABC, Mystique will bring the gifts balanced on his snout and present them in exchange for fish. She also noted that he was never trained to do this, but figured it out on his own. She said:
“We haven’t trained him, but he has trained us to do this.
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.”
Lyn further shared with ABC that Mystique will often bring several items in one day. She explained, “We swear he has a collection waiting to bring to us. Since we’ve been closed to the public he has been doing it more and more. Sometimes he will bring 10, one at a time, and he will line them up as he has to get fish.”
Barnacles Cafe & Dolphin Feeding shared on Facebook that back in September, he even brought as many as 21 gifts in a single morning!
Even though there are seven other dolphins in the feeding program, Mystique is the only one who brings the gifts. According to ABC, Lyn did share that there’s another male who will go with Mystique to collect offerings, but never actually brings any back. He just goes along and hopes he gets a fish too.
Since the initial COVID-19 lockdown was lifted, visitors have slowly been going back to the cafe. In fact, just recently they posted on Facebook that they were having an “extremely busy” morning. We can only imagine how thrilled Mystique is to have visitors back and ready to feed him again!
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